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Congress could partially repeal Defence of Marriage Act

Jessica Geen April 15, 2009
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Some Congressional leaders are discussing partially repealing the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) to allow the federal government to recognise gay marriages. reports that a “handful” of Congressional leaders are looking at changes which would lead to federal government being able to grant around 1,100 federal benefits to same-sex partners and provide same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.

According to the website, anonymous sources named legislators such as senators Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold, and Chuck Schumer, and representatives Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, Jerrold Nadler, and Jared Polis as being involved in the discussions.

Legislators would not discuss specifics, saying that they are trying to reconcile different approaches so matching bills can be introduced in the House and the Senate.

Amy Rutkin, Representative Nadler’s chief of staff, said: “With the landscape changing so quickly, we want to make sure congressional leaders, advocates, and litigators are all in the same place.”

The first beneficiaries of the move would be those in Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts, along with those in New York, where gay marriages performed in other states are recognised. Couples who married in California while gay marriage was legal would also benefit, pending a judgement on whether the marriages were valid.

Sources said the move could cover only gay marriages or extend to those in civil partnerships or even strong domestic partnerships.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “The idea is to recognise a relationship or marriage that is recognised by a state.

So if a couple is legally recognised in any state, he added, “you would be entitled to the federal benefits and protections and liabilities of marriage.”

Mr Anders added that lawmakers are also planning to make federal benefits available to same-sex couples living outside those six states.

“People are coalescing around the idea of a 50-state solution by recognising unions that are recognised in at least one state,” he said. “There’s a growing consensus around that.”

The proposals would still protect section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the power to determine what type of unions they consider legal.

DOMA was introduced to give states the right not to acknowledge same-sex marriage, even if recognised by another state.

It also bans the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages regardless of whether they are concluded or recognised by one of the states.

Related topics: Americas

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