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National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Black Justice Council hail bill to repeal DOMA

Joint news release from The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC):

(Washington, DC, September 15, 2009) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) applaud lawmakers for introducing legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that discriminates against lawfully married same-sex couples. Through DOMA, the federal government selectively denies same-sex couples more than 1,100 federal protections and responsibilities, including Social Security and immigration benefits, that apply to all other married couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). The bill has 87 co-sponsors.

“DOMA is discriminatory and harmful to families,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Married same-sex couples pay taxes, serve their communities, struggle to balance work and family, and raise children and care for aging parents like other Americans. Their contributions and needs are no different than anyone else’s and their relationships deserve the dignity and protection of federal recognition.”

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal both sections 2 and 3 of DOMA. Section 2 creates an exception to the full faith and credit clause for married same-sex couples. The Respect for Marriage Act would eliminate that provision, but it would leave each state free to decide whether to recognize marriages of same-sex couples from other states. Section 3 excludes same-sex spouses from all federal benefits and protections, including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to file joint taxes, and the to petition for permanent residence for a foreign spouse. The Respect for Marriage Act would require that the federal government treat all married couples equally.

“DOMA is an egregious piece of legislation as it codifies discrimination into federal law. As African Americans, we know all too well the injustices that laws such as this impose on our communities and our families. We encourage the Congressional Black Caucus to join us in calling for its repeal,” said Jason Bartlett, Deputy Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. “As African Americans, we are sensitive to the federal government trying to define our families. Let us consign the mistakes of the past to history and move forward together. We call on Congress to pass the Respect to Marriage Act as we continue to fight for our civil rights.”

On June 17, 2009, President Barack Obama said, “I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It’s discriminatory, it interferes with states’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it.” The President reiterated his support for the repeal of DOMA in an August 17, 2009 White House statement.

NCLR worked in close cooperation with other groups and lead co-sponsors to help define the scope of the bill to repeal DOMA and to secure federal respect for the marriages of same-sex couples. NCLR supports the legislative repeal, as well as the legal overturn, of DOMA.

DOMA was signed into law on September 21, 1996.

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