Repeal of DOMA Introduced in U.S. House

September 22, 2009 ( - A New York Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a measure that would repeal the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

A news release said the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 3567) is sponsored by Representative Jerrold Nadler along with RepresentativesTammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Jared Polis (D-Colorado).

The news release also said former President Bill Clinton is backing the repeal even though he signed the original measure into law in 1996.

Lawmakers said the repeal would remove the federal government’s involvement in the debate over what constitutes a legal, defensible marriage and leave that issue to the states.

“When the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, gay couples could not marry anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter,” Clinton said in the news release. “Thirteen years later, the fabric of our country has changed, and so should this policy.”

The federal DOMA provides that, for all purposes of federal law, such as ERISA and the federal tax code, the word “marriage” means “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and the word “spouse” refers “only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.”  In addition, the DOMA provides that no state will be required to recognize a same-sex relationship that is considered a legal marriage in another state.

The proposed bill requires that all marriages that are valid under state laws are also valid and recognized under federal law.  Same-sex marriage is now legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont. 

California recognizes same-sex marriages performed in the state between June 17 and November 4, 2008.  Same-sex marriage becomes legal in New Hampshire on January 1, 2010.  New York and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed elsewhere.