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Public Statements

Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Montpelier, VT

Gov. Peter Shumlin joined 15 other governors and mayors in marriage equality states in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That panel is expected today to markup the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), which would end federal marriage discrimination.

"We write as state and local leaders where marriage equality is recognized urging you to end federal discrimination against our citizens. Tens of thousands of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples have been strengthened because our states recognize their equal right to marry. These couples work hard, pay taxes and share the same values as other married couples but they are constantly hamstrung in their ability to protect themselves and their families because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act," the bipartisan leaders wrote to the committee.

They went on to state, " It disrespects our states' decisions to treat all of our citizens equally, and even requires our states' governments, when we jointly administer federal programs like Medicaid, to actively discriminate against our own lawfully-married citizens."

Signing the letter with Gov. Shumlin were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. of New Haven, CT, Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, CT, Mayor Vincent C. Gray of Washington, DC, Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco, Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston, Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra of Hartford, CT, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. California Gov. Jerry Brown submitted a separate letter to the committee in support of the RMA.

"I'm proud of our leadership in Vermont," said Gov. Shumlin. "We've shown that respecting and supporting all families makes our state and our communities stronger. I have no doubt that getting rid of DOMA will likewise make our nation stronger."

DOMA was enacted in 1996 to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

The Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

As the committee considers the Respect for Marriage Act (S.598), we write as state and local leaders where marriage equality is recognized urging you to end federal discrimination against our citizens. Tens of thousands of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples have been strengthened because our states recognize their equal right to marry. These couples work hard, pay taxes and share the same values as other married couples but they are constantly hamstrung in their ability to protect themselves and their families because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

DOMA prevents any of the over 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage from being afforded to same-sex couples or their families. These include Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses, protections against spouses losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign born partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others. While we are proud that our states have eased the burdens on families, these provisions of federal law are beyond our purview and Congressional action is required.

By denying federal recognition for some of our states' lawful marriages, DOMA does not just deny married same-sex couples these and other critical rights and benefits. It disrespects our states' decisions to treat all of our citizens equally, and even requires our states' governments, when we jointly administer federal programs like Medicaid, to actively discriminate against our own lawfully-married citizens.

We also write because DOMA does more than just hurt gay and lesbian couples -- it affects all of our constituents. First and foremost, it hurts the children of same-sex couples, who suffer from the financial instability DOMA creates for their parents. For LGBT youth, DOMA sends a dangerous message that that they cannot be full and equal citizens of their country. DOMA also harms parents and siblings and friends who must step in with financial and emotional support to mitigate these problems. And perhaps most of all, DOMA is a stain on our common values.

The federal government should not be in the business of picking which marriages it likes and which it does not, but that is exactly what DOMA does. We urge you to pass the Respect for Marriage Act and ensure that all families are afforded equal protections and equal dignity.

Sincerely,

Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York

Governor Dannel Malloy

Connecticut

Governor Martin O'Malley

Maryland

Governor Deval Patrick

Massachusetts

Governor Lincoln Chafee Rhode Island

Governor Peter Shumlin

Vermont

Mayor Thomas Menino

Boston, MA

Mayor Bill Finch

Bridgeport, CT

Mayor Pedro E. Segarra

Hartford, CT

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Los Angeles, CA

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. New Haven, CT

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

New York, NY

Mayor Jerry Sanders

San Diego, CA

Mayor Edwin Lee

San Francisco, CA

Mayor Vincent C. Gray Washington, DC


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