Congressman Eliot Engel is calling for the repeal of the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and is an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009 which would repeal DOMA. Rep. Engel is one of the 67 House members who voted against DOMA in 1996.
"This legislation was a big mistake in 1996 and it remains one to this very day. The federal government should not be in the practice of passing laws which discriminate and remove benefits and rights from our citizens. Equal treatment under the law is not just lip service to me, and only by repealing DOMA will same-sex couples around the country be able to say they are receiving equal treatment," said Rep. Engel. "DOMA meddles with the laws passed by the states granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, and may not be constitutional. Congress should promptly move to correct this mistake and support repeal."
Same-sex couples married in some states (California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa and Maine), as well as those legally recognized in New York and Washington, DC, have their legal rights in those states superseded by DOMA provisions. "These families are just like any other family -- they pay taxes, they pay their bills, they contribute to charity, they take part in neighborhood events. In many cases, there are children aversely affected by these restrictions. My question is -- how is this fair? Why must we treat some of our citizens differently than others? It just doesn't make sense," said Rep. Engel.
The Respect for Marriage Act does the following to federal law by repealing DOMA:
* Requires respect for marriages valid under the law of the state where performed
* Ensures a uniform national policy of stability by removing the confusion connected to having federal eligibility connected to state of residence.
* Eliminates the ability for a state to refuse to recognize a marriage performed in another state. Nothing in the bill forces a state to recognize another state's marriage, it only prevents rejection.
"This is a civil rights matter, and I am encouraging my colleagues to recognize it as such. By repealing DOMA we will be giving same-sex families the rights and privileges they deserve as citizens of the United States," said Rep. Engel.
The Respect for Marriage Act has been introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jared Polis (D-CO).