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Truthout: Congressional Democrats Introduce Bill to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act

March 17, 2011- Congressional Democrats introduced on Wednesday, March 16, legislation that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that bars the government from allowing same-sex couples to receive the same rights and benefits as a married man and woman.

"The time for dumping DOMA is long overdue, and rather than prolonging litigation in the courts, Congress should act to repeal this ugly law," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), chief sponsor of the bill.

The legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act, is co-sponsored by Reps. Nadler, John Conyers (D-Michigan) and out representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Jared Polis (D-Colorado) in the House, as well as by Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-California), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) in the Senate. The bill is seen as an acknowledgement of both the mainstreaming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and the work of activists who are demanding full federal equality under the law. But the bill also comes on the heels of a partisan war over the law, as House Republicans prepare to hire a legal team to defend it and GOP candidates spar over the role the legislation plays in American society.

"I'm extremely happy to see that these members of Congress are finally taking this kind of initiative with today's introduction, but it begs the question of where has the aggressive organizing, support and action been for the last two years?" Robin McGehee of the LGBT advocacy group GetEQUAL told Truthout. "Now, when Republicans control the House and an even slimmer majority in the Senate, they decide to take action. In the end, its better late than never - at least they're doing something for us."

Following Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the Obama administration would no longer defend the law in court, House Republicans moved quickly to condemn the action. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the administration's position "regrettable."  Soon after, House Republican leadership announced plans to defend the law in court in place of the Justice Department.

"This action by the House will ensure that this law's constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the president unilaterally," said Boehner in a statement following a decision by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a five-member panel consisting of the House speaker, majority leader, majority whip, minority leader and minority whip, to proceed with the law's defense.



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