Respect for Marriage Act introduced in the House

BlogHer Original Post

Last week, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with 90 cosponsors, introduced H.R. 3567 in the House of Representatives. The purpose of H.R. 3567, called the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009 (RMA), is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton. At the time DOMA became law, there were no states in which same-sex marriage was legal. Today, there are 6 states in which it's legal (or will soon be). There are also the 18,000, or so, same-sex couples who are legally married in California, though it is no longer legal for same-sex couple to marry there.

DOMA was a states' rights law, born of fear during the time when it looked like gay marriage might become legal in Hawaii. The states were afraid they would be forced into legalizing same-sex marriage, because they would have to recognize gay marriages performed in states where it was legal. The solution was DOMA. But DOMA went beyond just protecting states' rights. It also defined marriage with respect to federal laws pertaining to marriage, as a legal union between one man and one woman.

The same legislation that was created to protect states' rights, is now infringing upon them. Because DOMA included a section to define what the federal government would recognize as marriage, the federal government is now not recognizing the power of states to govern themselves. By not granting marriage rights to legally married same-sex couples, the federal government is, in effect, invalidating the states' judgment in determining its own laws. The proposed solution is the Respect for Marriage Act.

The Respect for Marriage Act would preserve the states' rights to regulate marriage, while granting federal rights to all legally married couples. As long as the marriage was valid in the state in which the marriage was entered into, marital status will be conferred with respect to federal law. This, to me, seems like a win-win. Same-sex couples who legally marry could file federal taxes jointly. They wouldn't have to pay imputed income, at the federal level, on benefits offered to same-sex partner. They could collect social security survivors benefits. They wouldn't have to worry about federal inheritance taxes when their spouse dies. They could help their spouse gain citizenship...

In short, it would rectify a host of injustices that DOMA currently perpetrates upon legally married same-sex couples. Personally, I have always thought that same-sex couples should be given a federal tax credit since we contribute to benefits that we are not legally allowed to avail ourselves of. If this bill fails, maybe Tammy Baldwin should introduce a Tax Fairness For Same-Sex Couples Act.
-read Democrats Introduce Respect for Marriage Act, by Frannie

While I'm pretty surprised there are now 94 sponsors, and that Bill Clinton, and Bob Barr (leader sponsor of DOMA) both support the Respect for Marriage Act, I don't think this bill will get anywhere this year. I worry just a bit, that this is going to be Prop 8 all over again, only on a grander scale. I worry that though there are a few openly gay Representatives who are sponsors of this bill, Barny Frank is not. Does it mean I don't think we should repeal DOMA? No. Heck No. DOMA needs to go. It needs to go now. I'm just saying I worry.

What do you think? Is this the time to introduce a DOMA repeal bill? Will it divide the country? Create backlash?

Write to your Congress(wo)men, Senators and the President.

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Zoe is a BlogHer Contributing Editor (Life-GLBT). She blogs about her life most ordinary at gaymo.

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