The House of Representatives took a step this week toward repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 federal ban on marriage equality that singles out same-sex couples for exclusion, when a group of more than 90 members introduced the Respect for Marriage Act.

A number of civil rights organizations applauded the introduction of the bill and urged its speedy passage. The Respect for Marriage Act would restore the right of married couples, including same-sex couples, to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. Specifically, the bill would protect the benefits and protections from marriage when a lawfully married same-sex couple moves to a state in which marriage equality does not exist.

In a press statement, the National Organization for Women said, “Loving couples and their families deserve the same recognition and legal protection as their neighbors.”

The statement denounced DOMA. “The right to marry has been recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. DOMA singles out a group of people and categorizes them as second-class citizens,” NOW said.

Echoing this comment, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told reporters this week, “DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity.”

“Today, we are taking a step toward closing this ugly chapter in our nation’s history, and toward ensuring same-sex couples and our families are treated fairly,” Carey pointed out. “Too many have been hurt for too long because of DOMA. It is time to end this injustice now.”

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solomonese emphasized the importance removing discriminatory practices against same-sex couples under DOMA. By outlawing marriage for same-sex couples, DOMA blocks material benefits provided by law only through marriage. “Many of these include the protections couples turn to in times of need, like Social Security survivors’ benefits, medical leave to care for an ailing spouse and equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws,” Solomonese said.

Civil rights organizations are urging full support for the bill and have launched a national campaign for its passage. See here:




Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of The Collectivity of Life: Spaces of Social Mobility and the Individualism Myth, and a former editor of Political Affairs.