Legislation to Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act

Press Release

By:  John Kerry
Date: March 16, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry today co-sponsored legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and restore the rights of all lawfully married couples, including same-sex couples, to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. This law will benefit same-sex couples in Massachusetts who are legally married but are currently denied more than 1,100 federal benefits and protections, including Social Security, that married couples are entitled to. In 1996, John Kerry was the only United States Senator running for reelection to vote against DOMA.

"DOMA was wrong and unconstitutional when I voted against it fifteen years ago, in 1996, and it's equally wrong and unconstitutional today. This discriminatory law treats loving, committed same-sex couples like second-class citizens by denying them thousands of federal benefits. It's overdue for Congress to ease the pain that Congress caused in the first place," Sen. Kerry said. "America has undergone a transformation on these issues since 1996, and the law should reflect the reality of where we are now as a country. We need to put an end to this discrimination by putting an end to the Defense of Marriage Act."

The Defense of Marriage Act singles out same-sex couples for unequal treatment under federal law. It excludes all same-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, from all federal statutes, regulations, and rulings applicable to all other married people.

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) will end the exclusion of married, same-sex couples from the federal benefits and protections that all other couples receive, including Social Security survivors' and spousal benefits, the right to care for a spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act, filing joint tax returns, full family benefits for federal civilian employees, and more. Married couples will retain these rights even if they move or travel to another state. However, the bill does not require states that have not yet enacted legal protections for same-sex couples to recognize a marriage.

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