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WATCH: What the DOMA Repeal Vote Actually Means

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Now it moves to a Senate that’s hostile to marriage equality—but that’s actually okay.

On one side: ten Senate co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Dianne Feinstein of California, Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Al Franken of Minnesota, Christopher Coons of Delaware, and Dick Blumenthal of Connecticut.

On the other side: eight opponents of marriage equality. That’s Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Michael Lee of Utah, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Right now the case against DOMA is racing through all three branches of government. This latest advance is in the Legislative branch, but the Executive branch also stands against DOMA, and there’s a slew of cases working their way through federal courts.

Meanwhile, although AFER’s case, Perry v. Brown. concerns Prop 8 instead of DOMA, the arguments are similar: marriage discrimination violates the Constitution of the United States, whether it’s DOMA or whether it’s Proposition 8.

Orrin Hatch may have had the hearing’s strangest argument — he claimed that DOMA protects states’ rights. But no. Look at the law. DOMA has 3 parts. Part 1′s just the name. Part 2 prevents LGBT couples from moving their marriage from one state to another — so if you’re married in Iowa and you move to Utah, your marriage evaporates and there’s nothing Iowa can do to protect you. And Part 3 is even worse: it changed the federal definition of marriage, forcing federal agencies to ignore marriages. So even if you’re married in Iowa and you stay in Iowa, every single federal agency will work to undermine that marriage.

That’s why this state-by-state patchwork of marriage laws is so unfair. You’re married over here, you’re not over there, you’ve got to fill out four different sets of taxes, the YMCA can tell that you’re married but the IRS can’t. This is why full federal marriage equality is the only solution.

Senator Whitehouse put it best. He said that his constituents in Rhode Island are “prejudiced needlessly under this law. … We owe them better. We should treat [their] commitment with respect.”

And Senator Franken was even more succinct. “DOMA hurts families.”

The 10-to-8 victory for the Respect for Marriage Act means it now moves to the full Senate, where it has the support of 31 Senators. It’s pretty unlikely that it’ll be brought up for a vote anytime soon, but that’s fine — it gives time for support to grow in Congress.

Meanwhile, our case continues its expedited progress through the federal courts. Ari Ezra Waldman had a great piece on Towleroad this week about why we get more strength from legal arguments than from popular elections. Remember the misleading ads in California? Our opponents spent millions to trick Californians into thinking that Prop 8 had something to do with protecting marriage.

But when they’re in court, they’re under oath, and “limited by the compulsion to tell the truth.” And that’s why they’re trying to hide. They want to hide their names. They want to hide their arguments. They want to hide the tapes of the trial … because they know they have no case.

And if the country had voted on interracial marriage, it wouldn’t have been legal until the 1990s. It was a visionary Supreme Court that ruled in Loving v. Virginia that marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” and that marriage bans are “subversive to the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled 14 times that marriage is a fundamental American freedom. And soon, we’re going to make that 15 times. See you in court.

By:           matt baume
On:           Nov 11, 2011
Tagged: , , ,

  • 3 Comments
    • Cam
      Cam

      The Congress has to jump on this. If DOMA gets knocked down by the courts and a repeal hadn’t even been BROUGHT up it would look awful.

      With the backlash against the Tea Party that was obvious in the most recent election results with conservative laws being voted against in Mississippi, AZ, OH, with Tea PArty favorites losing in conservative states etc… it will be interesting to see what happens after the next Congressional election. It would seem the Dems are now scared enough to finally move on gay rights after the last election.

      Nov 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • the crustybastard
      the crustybastard

      If I’m supposed to feel like the Democratic party is on my side because they only chose to act when getting the legislation accomplished was an impossibility, well…I don’t.

      And I haven’t forgotten how integral the Democratic party was in getting DOMA (and DADT) enacted into federal law either. Even if the Donks someday get DOMA repealed (which I doubt will happen in my lifetime), they’re only back to zero as far as I’m concerned.

      Utterly fed up with both degenerate parties.

      Nov 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steven McCarthy
      Steven McCarthy

      Thank you for the updates and information from this news source. I never see the “press” follow these important details and I feel informed with you on our watch.

      Nov 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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