Leahy on Repealing DOMA: ‘All Married Couples Deserve Legal Protections'

By Penny Starr | November 3, 2011 | 2:30 PM EDT

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, voted for passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 but said at a Nov. 3, 2011 mark up that is must now be repealed. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed debate and voting on legislation today that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but Chairman Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.), who voted for DOMA’s passage in 1996, said the law “must now be repealed,” adding that the federal government must “recognize that all married couples deserve legal protections.”

At a mark-up hearing on legislation to repeal DOMA, Sen. Leahy said, “When I voted for DOMA in 1996, I believed that it was a way to allow states to maintain their independence and define marriage as each state saw fit.”

But “much has happened” since DOMA became law, he said, including his own and five other states legalizing same-sex “marriage,” and that “it must now be repealed.”

“The time has come for the federal government to recognize that all married couples deserve legal protections,” Leahy said. “I look forward to the repeal of DOMA.”

The Defense of Marriage Act basically says that for any federal purpose, marriage is defiend as being between one man and one woman, and no state can be forced to accept a same-sex “marriage” from another state.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sponsored Senate bill 598, the Respect for Marriage Act, said DOMA was “clearly discriminatory” and should be repealed.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) sponsored the legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which she said on Nov. 3, 2011 was "clearly discriminatory." (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“DOMA is a pernicious denial to one class of legally married couples of more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits that are provided to all other members of that class -- legally married couples,” Feinstein said. “I believe this is a clear violation of equal protection.”

Feinstein’s legislation would recognize as married those couples that are legally married under state law, including homosexuals who “marry.”

This would make same-sex couples eligible for the federal benefits enjoyed by married couples, including spousal Social Security and death tax benefits.

Leahy announced that debate and a vote on repealing DOMA would take place next week.

The Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 specifically would repeal section 1738C, Title 28, USC and amend it to read as follows:

Sec. 7. Marriage

(a) 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.

(b) In this section, the term `State' means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.'.

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