Sunday, August 28, 2011

Equality Maryland to Mikulski: "1996 Called, They Want Their DOMA Back" // Same for Ruppersberger & Cummings

UPDATE: Minor correction from Sen. Cardin's office about the timing of his support for DOMA-repeal: "FYI, the Gazette had it slightly off. Senator Cardin signed on as a bill cosponsor in May, not July."

Last week, the Washington Blade reported that Equality Maryland and its allies are pushing hard to get Senator Barbara Mikulski on board for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA):
The senior U.S. senator from Maryland is facing increasing pressure to sign on as a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act amid plans to win marriage equality in her state in 2012....

An informed source said the senator would make an announcement regarding her support for the Respect for Marriage Act in September.
DOMA defines marriage as an opposite-sex endeavor and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages granted out-of-state. The 1996 law was approved overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Over a decade later, Obama campaigned against it. But 15 years later, it finally feels like the ground is moving....

1996 Called, They Want Their DOMA Back

Folks, DOMA is facing a repeal effort this year. After directing the DOJ to stop defending DOMA, President Obama endorsed Senator Diane Feinstein's repeal bill. The effort is coming in the form of the Respect for Marriage Act (H112 is the House version, S598 is the Senate version). Atlantic magazine covered the Senate hearings for DOMA repeal and noted:
What a difference 15 years makes. According to testimony in today's hearings, approximately 80,000 same-sex couples have married under their states' laws -- and (I can say this from experience) neighbors, coworkers, and family members are asking the unmarried ones when to expect the wedding. Even in states where no such marriages have been performed, every household knows of someone married to another person of the same sex -- if only Ellen DeGeneres, daytime television's new presumed queen, who delights in talking about her wife Portia deRossi.
Momentum is clearly on the side of equality, which means history books will tread the same path. No wonder then, that advocates can see what we are all seeing: national marriage equality is inevitable. Also no wonder that they therefore want everyone on board for DOMA repeal this year -- including in Maryland!

The Gazette followed up on the Blade's DOMA coverage with an article announcing marriage equality advocates would deliver 3,000 petition signatures to Mikulski. Their article also noted which members of Maryland's federal delegation had already signed on to support DOMA repeal:
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Baltimore signed on as a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act legislation in July....

The House version of the bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. John Sarbanes (Dist. 3) of Towson, Donna Edwards (Dist. 4) of Fort Washington, Steny H. Hoyer (Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville and Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (Dist. 8) of Kensington.
Missing here from the Democratic team are only Senator Mikulski and Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger and Elijah Cummings. We hope to see them all sign on as co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, so that we can give the Republicans a monopoly on bigotry. Maryland's two Republicans are the loony Andy Harris (who replaced a more moderate GOP member) and Roscoe Bartlett, who has a 0% rating from the marriage equality advocates at the Human Rights Campaign.

If you want to further fuel the efforts for DOMA repeal and marriage equality in Maryland, you can attend the Equality Maryland benefit Wednesday, September 7 in Chevy Chase, MD. Best of all, if you attend the event, you'll get to meet the next Governor of Maryland (note: as we reported, all four active candidates will be there!)

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some interesting politico-historical context on DOMA, excerpted from Wikipedia:
At the time of passage, it was expected that Hawaii (and possibly other states) would soon legalize same-sex marriage, whether by legislation or judicial interpretation of either the state or federal constitution. Opponents of such recognition feared—and many proponents hoped—that the other states would then be required to recognize such marriages under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution....

The 1996 Republican Party platform endorsed DOMA, referencing only Section 2 of the Act: "We reject the distortion of [anti-discrimination] laws to cover sexual preference, and we endorse the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent states from being forced to recognize same-sex unions." The Democratic Party platform that year did not mention DOMA or marriage....

The bill moved through Congress on a legislative fast track and met with overwhelming approval in both houses of the Republican-controlled Congress, passing by a vote of 85–14 in the Senate and a vote of 342–67 in the House of Representatives.[28] It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

Since the enactment of DOMA several states have issued licenses for same-sex marriages: Iowa, California, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and New York....

The 2000 Republican Party platform endorsed DOMA in general terms but introduced a concern about possible judicial action: "We support the traditional definition of 'marriage' as the legal union of one man and one woman, and we believe that federal judges and bureaucrats should not force states to recognize other living arrangements as marriages. The Democratic Party platform that year did not mention DOMA or marriage in this context

President Barack Obama's political platform included full repeal of DOMA....

On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would cease legal defense of the Act's Section 3 at the direction of President Barack Obama, who had concluded that Section 3 was unconstitutional....

...following Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the Obama Administration would no longer defend DOMA Section 3 in court, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced her intent to introduce legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee to repeal DOMA. On March 16, 2011, the Respect for Marriage Act was re-introduced in both houses during the 112th Congress. The House version was introduced by Nadler, and the Senate version by Feinstein.

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