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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 11
Patty Murray co-sponsoring DOMA repeal bill
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Patty Murray co-sponsoring DOMA repeal bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Washington's senior U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, is one of 20 original co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) is the prime sponsor of the senate version of the bill, which was introduced on March 16. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is prime sponsor of the House version.

'I am proud to stand with Senator Feinstein and others as we fight to end this 14-year-old policy and make sure all married couples are treated equally in the eyes of the federal government,' Murray said in a statement. 'I strongly supported President Obama's decision to stop defending DOMA in court. And now it's time that we take another step forward and fully repeal this law.'

Along with Feinstein, Sens., Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will be leading the effort to pass the bill in the senate.

Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have jurisdiction over the bill.

No Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors, and it remains unclear how Democrats will get the 60 votes needed to bring the measure to a vote.

On the House side, the prospects are even more doubtful, since Republicans now have control of that body.

If the Respect for Marriage Act does pass, the federal government would then recognize same-sex marriages concluded in jurisdictions where they are legal in all matters governed by federal law.

In addition, the measure would allow same-sex couples married in one jurisdiction to continue to receive the federal benefits of marriage even if they move to a state that does not allow same-sex marriage.

Same-sex couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships are not covered under the legislation, however.

Nadler originally introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in 2009, when Democrats controlled the House, but it did not advance to the House floor for debate.

No companion senate bill was introduced at that time.

Among the 91 co-sponsors of Nadler's 2009 bill were openly Lesbian and Gay Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), but Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was publicly skeptical of the effort because he believed DOMA could be eliminated more quickly through court action.

Frank is a co-sponsor of the 2011 bill, as is the newest openly Gay member of Congress, David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

Murray originally voted for DOMA when it was introduced in 1996, as did most Democratic senators. Feinstein was one of only 14 senators who voted against it.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed on February 23 that President Obama had concluded DOMA is unconstitutional, and had instructed him to stop defending the law in court.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) later announced that he would intervene to defend DOMA when it is challenged in court. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 57% of Democrats and 51% of independents support same-sex marriage, but only 23% of Republicans do.

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