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Report: Congress won’t introduce DOMA repeal until after the Supreme Court issues ruling in Windsor

DOMA Repeal DOMA trials

By Scottie Thomaston

Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill

The Supreme Court could strike down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act next month: the Court’s decision is expected in the final weeks of June, right before the Justices leave for their summer recess. If the Court decides to uphold Section 3 of DOMA, Congress could still take action on the repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act. That bill would eliminate DOMA’s language defining marriage for purposes of federal law and require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for if the couple married in a state where it’s legal. The federal government typically looks to state law to determine the legitimacy of a marriage, and same-sex marriage has been the only exception, because of the federal DOMA. (Indeed the FEC reiterated that stance this week in an opinion holding that they would have recognized same-sex marriage but for DOMA’s command.)

The Respect for Marriage Act hasn’t been introduced in this session of Congress, but last year it had 32 Senate co-sponsors, and it picked up Republican support in the House of Representatives. The Washington Blade is reporting today that lawmakers have decided they won’t reintroduce the bill until after the Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor is handed down, but if the Court challenge fails and the bill is reintroduced it may pick up Republican support in the Senate for the first time:

Lawmakers are holding off on introducing legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act until after the Supreme Court rules on the anti-gay law, according to multiple sources familiar with the bill, as one Republican LGBT organization expects Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to sign on as a co-sponsor.

A number of LGBT advocates familiar with the legislation, which has been known as the Respect for Marriage Act, told the Washington Blade its lead sponsors — Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Senate — are delaying introduction until after the expected court ruling in June.

According to the report, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans believes that Senator Portman, since he recently announced support for marriage equality, would sign on to the Respect for Marriage Act as a co-sponsor, though he says he hasn’t heard from Portman himself on the subject.

Republican support for the RFMA would be incredibly helpful in the event the Supreme Court holds that DOMA is constitutional: Congress has begun its work on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and while some legislators are saying that they hope to include same-sex couples in the finished product, by way of introducing the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to allow citizens to sponsor their partners so they can stay together in the United States, that outcome is less than certain. Some congresspeople are already suggesting that an immigration bill is not likely to pass if it includes protections for same-sex couples. If it fails, the RFMA would be the last available option for binational same-sex couples.

For their part, members of Congress are considerably more silent on the bill, according to the report. And it seems likely to stay that way, at least until the Supreme Court makes its ruling in Windsor.

1 Comment

  • 1. B  |  June 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    000 times!!!

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