Respect for Marriage Act

Menstuff® has information on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) designed specifically for heterosexuals, keeping members of any of the other sexual orientations (all 23 of them) from receiving most of the thousand-plus benefits, many financial, many federal. Since this is America, after-all, we prefer laws and benefits that serve those who wish to marry the legal benefits as well. Here we respond to DOMA with RFMA. Sign the petition

Cancer-Stricken Soldier Fights for Her Life and Her Family's Equality 3:24


Nadler Introduces the Respect for Marriage Act which would repeal DOMA
Sen. Dianne Feinstein On Respect For Marriage Act 3:29
Obama Endorses Feinstein's Bill To Repeal The Defense Of Marriage Act 0:50
Defeat DOMA! 7:02
Sen Franken Vows To Repeal Anti-Gay Marriage Law 5:09
CSPAN Gay Marriage Debate (DOMA): Brian Moulton (HRC) v Maggie Gallagher (NOM) (3-7-11) 42:50
11-13-11 NY Marriage Equality WK 21 Respect For marriage Act Sermon.wmv 50:00

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
How DOMA Affects Military Families
About the Respect for Marriage Act
Protections and Responsibilities of Marriage
Obama Mulls Weighing In On Gay Marriage Case


Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

DOMA unfairly denies married same-sex couples the 1,138+ federal protections and responsibilities that the government provides to other married people, dividing Americans into first-class and second-class citizens, with first-class and second-class marriages.

Unlike all other married couples, same-sex married couples are denied such important protections as Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, family and medical leave, and the ability to pool resources as a family without unfair taxation.

Find out more about how DOMA harms same-sex couples and their families:

How DOMA Affects Military Families

Gay and lesbian service members risk their lives to protect ours while their families are denied the critical protections of marriage because of DOMA.

DOMA prevents the federal government from respecting the legal marriages of same-sex couples and forces the military to treat married gay and lesbian service members and veterans and their families differently than it treats all other service members and their families.

Find out more about how DOMA harms same-sex couples and their families:

About the Respect for Marriage Act

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act, enacted in 1996, mandates unequal treatment of legally married same-sex couples, selectively depriving them of the 1,138+ protections and responsibilities that marriage triggers at the federal level. DOMA stigmatizes people by dividing married Americans into two classes. Unlike different-sex married couples, same-sex married couples are denied such important protections as Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, family and medical leave, and the ability to pool resources as a family without unfair taxation.

Overturning federal marriage discrimination is a key part of Freedom to Marry’s three-track Roadmap to Victory, which also includes winning marriage in more states and growing and diversifying the majority for marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced on March 16, 2011 in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and in the House by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The bill would repeal DOMA, and return the federal government to its longstanding practice of honoring marriage without a “gay exception.”

House Co-Sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act

Senate Co-Sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act

Take Action:

Sign an open letter to President Obama

Contact your member of Congress

The first ever congressional hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act was held on July 20, 2011 before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Witnesses who delivered testimony at the hearing included Freedom to Marry’s President Evan Wolfson and Ron Wallen, a widower from California who spoke eloquently about how he’s likely to lose the home he shared with Tom, his recently deceased partner of 58 years. DOMA prevents Ron from collecting the Social Security survivor benefits accrued by Tom even though they were married in 2008.

Watch Evan Wolfson’s testimony

Scan down to video

Rachel Maddow


Read Evan's written testimony

Freedom to Marry set three goals for our work with the White House:

1.To persuade the Obama Administration to apply heightened scrutiny to sexual orientation discrimination, and to stop defend DOMA in court, because it is unconstitutional.

2.To encourage the President to endorse the Respect for Marriage Act.

3.To help the President complete his journey and join the majority of Americans in supporting the freedom to marry.

Through public encouragement, grassroots advocacy, and lobbying, we have already succeeded in the first two objectives.

In a statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, President Obama endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act on July 19, 2011. The Obama Administration instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA in court in February 2011 and called for heightened scrutiny – a presumption that sexual orientation discrimination is unconstitutional, rather than okay -- in federal lawsuits.

On our third objective, Freedom to Marry is working hard to encourage President Obama to complete his journey and join the majority of Americans in favor of the freedom to marry. In March 2011, Freedom to Marry launched its Say, “I Do” campaign with an Open Letter signed by civil rights leaders, tech entrepreneurs, pro athletes, and Hollywood celebrities. The Open Letter calls on President Obama to publicly support marriage, and nearly 120,000 Americans have signed on.

Click here for more information on Freedom to Marry’s Federal Program.

Other Resources

Respect for Marriage Act Factsheet

Chris Geidner, Senior Political Writer for Metro Weekly, has written a series of articles tracing the history, circumstances, and politics that lead to the passage of DOMA.

Domestic Disturbance

Marriage Wars

Double Defeat

Protections and Responsibilities of Marriage

There are over 1,100 protections and responsibilities conferred on married couples by the federal government including access to health care, parenting and immigration rights, social security, veterans and survivor benefits, and transfer of property—and that doesn't include several hundred state and local laws, protections conferred by employers, or the intangible security, dignity, respect, and meaning that comes with marriage. Excluding committed same-sex couples from marriage means shutting out families from the safety and security created by these protections and responsibilities.

Taken as a whole, marriage law reveals a social consensus about how to treat two people who voluntarily pledge to care for each other and their children at life's extremes. Marriage laws enable (or require) couples to fulfill the most common wedding vows:

In sickness and in health. Marriage automatically enables spouses to visit each other in the hospital; to make each others' emergency medical decisions; to share a family health plan; and to take medical leave to care for a sick spouse or child.

For richer and for poorer. Marriage means that governments, banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions will consider both spouses's incomes, assets, or debts in such matters as taxes, credit, loans, inheritance, divorce settlements, and eligibility for public housing, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits.

When a child joins the family. Marriage automatically enables the spouses to be joint parents, covering such situations as making school or medical decisions, applying for passports, passing on inheritances, or being eligible for visitation rights and child support obligations if the parents separate.

When death parts the pair. Marriage law enables a survivor to continue to care for (or be cared for by) the dead partner in such situations as making funeral arrangements, inscribing an epitaph, inheriting a lease, filing wrongful death claims, taking bereavement leave, and passing on property.

Lists of protections and responsibilities marriage provides

Discrimination: Protections Denied to Same-Sex Couples and Their Kids
Some of the ways in which government's denying the freedom to marry punishes couples and families by depriving them of critical tangible as well as intangible protections and responsibilities in virtually every area of life.
Source: From Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

Defense of Marriage Act: An Update to Prior Report
The GAO counts 1,138 federal statutory provisions in the United States Code which provide protections and responsibilities to married couples.
Source: General Accounting Office, Washington, D.C., January 2004

1324 reasons for marriage equality in New York State
A list of all the 1,324 New York state statutes and regulations that confer a right or duty on married individuals in New York State — most of which cannot be obtained by any other way but through marriage.
Source: Empire State Pride Agenda, June 2007

Marriage Inequality in the State of Maryland
More than 425 provisions in the Maryland Code disparately treat or unambiguously discriminate against same-sex couples, who are unable to marry.
Source: Equality Maryland, February 2006


Obama Mulls Weighing In On Gay Marriage Case

The Obama administration is quietly considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban on gay marriage, a step that would mark a political victory for advocates of same-sex unions and a deepening commitment by President Barack Obama to rights for gay couples.

Obama raised expectations among opponents of the Proposition 8 ban when he declared in last month's inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be "treated like anyone else under the law." The administration has until Feb. 28 to intervene in the case by filing a "friend of the court" brief.

The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 and overturned a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.

An administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the Justices but the federal government's opinion does carry weight with the court.

A final decision on whether to file a brief has not been made, a senior administration official said. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, said the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.

While the Justice Department would formally make the filing, the president himself is almost certain to make the ultimate decision on whether to file.

"I have to make sure that I'm not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we're not a party to the case," Obama said Wednesday in interview with San Francisco's KGO-TV.

He said his personal view is that gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples and said his administration would do whatever it could to promote that principle.

Obama has a complicated history on gay marriage. As a presidential candidate in 2008, he opposed the California ban but didn't endorse gay marriage. As he ran for re-election last year, he announced his personal support for same-sex marriage but said marriage was an issue that should be decided by the states, not the federal government.

To some, Obama's broad call for gay rights during his Jan. 21 inaugural address was a signal that he now sees a federal role in defining marriage.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," Obama said during his remarks on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. "For if we are truly created equal, than surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

But administration officials said Obama – a former constitutional law professor – was not foreshadowing any legal action in his remarks and was simply restating his personal belief in the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

Seeking to capitalize on growing public support for gay marriage, advocates are calling on the administration to file a broad brief not only asking the court to declare California's ban unconstitutional but also urging the Justices to make all state bans illegal.

"If they do make that argument and the court accepts it, the ramifications could be very sweeping," said Richard Socarides, an attorney and advocate.

The administration could also file a narrower brief that would ask the court to issue a decision applying only to California. Or it could decide not to weigh in on the case at all.

The Supreme Court, which will take up the case on March 26, has several options for its eventual ruling. Among them:

  • The justices could uphold the state ban on gay marriage and say citizens of a state have the right to make that call.
  • The court could endorse an appeals court ruling that would make same-sex marriage legal in California but apply only to that state.
  • The court could issue a broader ruling that would apply to California and seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. In those states, gay couples can join in civil unions that have all the benefits of marriage but cannot be married.
  • The broadest ruling would be one that says the Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex unions.

For weeks, supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 have been lobbying the administration to side with them.

Last month, Theodore Olson and David Boies, lawyers arguing for gay marriage, met with Verrilli and other government lawyers to urge the administration to file a brief in the case. A few days later, Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, met with the solicitor general to ask the government to stay out of the case. Those kinds of meetings are typical in a high court case when the government is not a party and is not asked by the court to make its views known.

Boies and Chad Griffin, president of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, also had a meeting at the White House on the case.

Ahead of next week's deadline, nearly two dozen states have filed briefs with the Supreme Court asking the Justices to uphold the California measure.

"There's a critical mass of states that have spoken out and believe states should continue to have the right to define marriage as between one man and one woman," said Jim Campbell, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents supporters of Proposition 8.

Public opinion has shifted in support of gay marriage in recent years. In May 2008, Gallup found that 56 percent of Americans felt same-sex marriages should not be recognized by the law as valid. By November 2012, some 53 percent felt they should be legally recognized.

Obama has overwhelming political support among those who support same-sex marriage. Exit polls from the November election showed that 49 percent of voters believed their states should legally recognize gay marriage. More than 70 percent of those voters backed Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

One day after the court hears the California case, the justices will hear arguments on another gay marriage case, this one involving provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The act defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.

The Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law in 2011 but continues to enforce it. Because DOMA is a federal law and the government is a party to the case, the administration does not have to state its opposition through a friend of the court brief.

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 Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. - Simone Signoret

For the religious right to believe this should only be granted to heterosexuals is one of the biggest forms of bigotry. - Gordon Clay

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