Current Affairs

New York congressman to introduce DOMA repeal bill

Jessica Geen September 14, 2009
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Democrat congressman Jerry Nadler has announced he will unveil a bill to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Nadler has said he will unveil the legislation tomorrow (Tuesday) and will hold a press conference at 11am on Capitol Hill.

DOMA bans the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages regardless of whether they are performed or recognised by a state. It also gives states the right not to recognise gay marriages performed in another jurisdiction.

Nadler’s bill will also allow gay couples to get married in another state then return home to claim federal benefits.

Although he has secured support in congress from Jared Polis and Tammy Baldwin, Nadler has not received the backing of the longest-serving openly gay congressman Barney Frank.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, Frank said: “It’s not anything that’s achievable in the near term. I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress.”

He also expressed concerns that plans to give gay couples in states that ban gay marriage equal benefits would create “political problems”.

Responding to Frank’s statement, Nadler said the bill would not force any state to adopt gay marriage.

He said: “Mr Frank knows better than anyone that our opponents will falsely claim that any DOMA repeal bill ‘exports marriage’ in an effort to generate fear and misunderstanding.

“But the dishonest tactics of our opponents should not stop us from aggressively pushing to end this horrific discrimination now, as is the consensus of the nation’s top LGBT groups who all support this approach.”

In July, Massachusetts filed a lawsuit which argued that DOMA violates the US constitution by interfering with the right of states to define the marriage status of their own residents.

It was the first US state to legalise gay marriage in 2004 and is now the first to challenge the controversial Act.

The suit, filed by state Attorney General Martha Coakley in the US district court in Boston, also states the 1996 Act forces states to discriminate against gay married couples regarding various benefits rights.

In August, the Obama administration admitted that DOMAdiscriminatory but said it will still defend it in court because it is legally obliged to do so. In his election campaign, President Barack Obama described the law as “abhorrent”.

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