US lawmakers introduce bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act

US lawmakers introduce bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act

[JURIST] Ninety members of the US House of Representatives [official website] introduced [press release] a bill [HR 3567 text] Tuesday to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. Signed by former president Bill Clinton [official profile], DOMA refuses federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples [JURIST news archive], including social security, tax laws, and immigration rights, and defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Clinton has stated his support [press release] for the the new bill, the goals of which President Barack Obama [official website] supported during his candidacy. Called the Respect for Marriage Act and introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) [official site], the new bill would permit states to define marriage individually:

For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.

No date has been set for voting on the bill, and it is unlikely to be a priority [NYT report] for the current session of Congress.

Last month, a federal judge in California dismissed a challenge [JURIST report] to DOMA on jurisdictional grounds. In July, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] filed a suit challenging [JURIST report] DOMA on the grounds that it interferes with the state's right to define and regulate marriage. In March, a group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage law filed a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging DOMA. Also in July, a Washington, DC law took effect [JURIST report] that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states or jurisdictions. Currently, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts [JURIST reports] all allow same-sex marriage.