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DOMA Project: Tuesday marks 17th anniversary of DOMA introduction in Congress

News release from the DOMA Project:

17 YEARS AFTER THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT WAS INTRODUCED, GAY AND LESBIAN BINATIONAL COUPLES ENGAGE PUBLIC IN THE FIGHT TO KEEP THEIR FAMILIES TOGETHER

MARRIED GAY AND LESBIAN COUPLES CONTINUE TO BE DENIED ACCESS TO GREEN CARDS AND FIANCÉ(E) VISAS BECAUSE OF FEDERAL LAW

doma Seventeen years ago, on May 7, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. At the time, legislators’ primary objective was to express moral disapproval of gays and lesbians. DOMA Section 3, which defines marriage for all federal purposes as between one man and one woman, has caused catastrophic and irreparable harm to American families. Same-sex married couples are barred from 1,138 provisions of federal law that are designed to strengthen families. By contrast, no marriages were actually defended.

For 17 years, DOMA has caused immeasurable financial and emotional hardship for gay and lesbian Americans, particularly those in long-term committed relationships with a foreign national. In Boulder, Colorado, Catriona lives with her spouse, Cathy, a citizen of Ireland. Together they are raising three children. This family lives under constant threat of separation ever since Cathy’s work visa ran out last year. Other couples, like American, Jesse Goodman and Argentinean, Max Oliva, have been forced to live in exile in London, unable to return home. Others have no alternative but to struggle in long distance relationships indefinitely, traveling across the globe for short visits, sustaining their commitment to one another by Skype and telephone. The years lost to DOMA will never be regained for these families.

Even DOMA’s original sponsor, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr repudiated the discriminatory law in 2009 as an unacceptable infringement on individual liberty. President Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, finally denounced it this past March. With 12 federal court rulings against DOMA in less than three years, and the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to fight DOMA alongside lesbian and gay plaintiffs, many commentators see a Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA as imminent.

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin work on the markup of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that excludes gay and lesbian couples. Senate Republicans have threatened that inclusion of an amendment to add gay families to the bill will ensure that comprehensive immigration reform goes down to defeat. Republicans are once again scapegoating gay Americans, rather than fixing a broken immigration system so that it protects all our families. Because gay and lesbian couples have been left out of immigration reform, everything now rides on a Supreme Court decision on DOMA due in a few weeks. Despite some optimism, the Court’s final ruling on DOMA won’t be known until the day of the ruling. If the Court upholds DOMA, gay and lesbian Americans with foreign-born partners would have no recourse; couples and families would continue to be torn apart, parents separated from children, and American citizens driven into exile.

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