Entries in DOMA (19)


Repeal of DOMA Affects Puerto Rico

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- The Supreme Court's decision to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act also affects Puerto Rico.

The federal government gives 1,138 rights, benefits and protections to married couples, including immigration rights, which are now extended to same-sex couples. Even though same-sex marriage is not legal in Puerto Rico, those who get married in one of the 13 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is recognized will get all federal rights on the island as well.

Local benefits, however, are still not available to these couples. For now.

Renowned activist Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that in just the past four months, the climate has changed tremendously towards gay rights in Puerto Rico. During this time, four state laws have passed protecting the LGBT community. A controversial law banning discrimination because of sexual oriental and gender identity in the workplace was signed into law in May. There was also an extension of domestic violence protections to all households, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Two other laws now include LGBT families in public and private healthcare plans on the island.

As Pedro Julio notes, Latinos are more likely than any other ethnic group to support gay marriage, but there's still a long way to go in terms of unteaching what are essentially cultural norms and assumptions about the LGBT community in Puerto Rico.

 Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pelosi Attends Supreme Court Arguments, Predicts DOMA Will Be Struck Down

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- After attending oral arguments at the Supreme Court Wednesday to debate the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the most outspoken advocates in Congress for marriage equality, said she believes that when the justices announce their ruling in a couple of months, they will strike down the controversial law commonly known as DOMA.

“On the basis of what I heard, the questions of the justices, the response of the participants, I’m very optimistic that DOMA will be struck down,” said Pelosi, D-Calif. “Just being in the room … this [issue] is as big as our country, as big as our Constitution, as big as our being a beacon of equal protection to the world.”

While Pelosi and many of her Democratic colleagues have openly embraced gay marriage over the years, House Republicans have resisted the Obama administration’s unwillingness to enforce DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has persistently insisted that as long as the Obama administration refuses to enforce DOMA, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, will defend the law.

“A law’s constitutionality is determined by the courts – not by the Department of Justice,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel wrote in a statement Wednesday. “As long as the Obama administration refuses to exercise its responsibility, we will.”

On Wednesday, Pelosi said she believes Congress and the nation have evolved since DOMA was first signed into law and she predicted that opposition to gay marriage is “not a model for the future.”

“We’re at a different place, and it’s a generational change as well,” Pelosi said. “Times can blind, and whatever the public mood was on this subject at the time, it also created some ignorance on the subject. And that ignorance is fading now.”

“Make America more American by ending discrimination by overturning the ill-conceived DOMA,” she added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Regarding Gay Marriage this Week

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments from both sides of the same sex marriage debate this week.

At issue are California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Both prohibit same sex marriage, but public opinion seems to increasingly be in favor of gay marriage.

The big question is whether the Court will rule such bans unconstitutional nationwide or if it will leave the issue up to individual states to decide. Opponents of same sex marriage are against the issue being resolved in such a top-down manner by the courts rather than through elections, but most experts seem to think that the Court likely won’t go that far in its ruling.

“They see the wave developing in support of gay marriage. We've seen that develop now majority support in the country. It's moving very, very quickly,” said ABC Chief Political Correspondent George Stephanopoulos.

“They're not gonna wanna risk looking anachronistic …What they're likely to do is create the space for states to make their own decisions.”

California State Attorney General Kamila Harris believes that same sex marriage is about equality. “The majority of Americans believe it, the majority of Californians believe it, the majority of Catholics in this country believe it,” Harris said on CNN's State of the Union.

Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defending Freedom disagrees with Harris’s assessment.

“We're talking about Californians going to the ballot box twice in a nine year period and voting to uphold marriage between one man and one woman,” he said on State of the Union. “That's our most fundamental right in this country is the right to vote and the right to participate in the political process.

The proponents of same sex marriage note that protecting the rights of minorities has traditionally been done by the courts rather through elections.

Evan Wolfson, President of the advocacy organization Freedom to Marry compared the current marriage debate to another similar case in the 1960's during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation.  

“The Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and 70 percent of the American people at that time were against inter-racial marriage. Fortunately, in America we don't put everything up to a vote.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Bill Clinton Says 'It's Time to Overturn' Gay Marriage Law He Signed

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for TRANS4M(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Bill Clinton is adding his name to the list of those who say the Supreme Court should overturn the federal law restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Seventeen years after he signed the law that did just that, Bill Clinton says the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, should be thrown out.

Clinton writes Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed that 1996 was "a very different time."   

He explains:

"In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage 'would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.' It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress."

Today, gays and lesbians can marry in nine states and Washington, D.C.  To deprive them of rights under federal law, Clinton says, is discriminatory and "incompatible with our Constitution."

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on DOMA, and California's Proposition 8, later this month.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court Takes No Action on Gay Marriage

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When the nine Supreme Court justices retreated behind closed doors Friday for their regularly scheduled conference, they considered the issue of gay marriage and were widely expected to decide whether to take up a case that could ultimately determine whether there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

But the justices surprised court watchers when they took no action at all. Although they discussed the issue in their closed door conference Friday morning, they made no decision on whether they would hear unrelated cases having to do with California's 2008 Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Court could act on Monday when it is scheduled to release orders, or discuss the cases again in their next scheduled conference on next Friday.

At issue in the cases is Proposition 8, the controversial 2008 California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It passed with 52 percent of the vote.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February struck down "Prop 8," ruling that it "serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

Supporters of Prop 8 are asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of that ruling. Gay marriages have been put on hold in California until the Supreme Court decides whether to step in and hear the case.

In court briefs, Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer for, the original sponsor of Prop 8, writes, "Californians of all races, creeds, and walks of life have opted to preserve the traditional definition of marriage not because they seek to dishonor gays and lesbians as a class, but because they believe that the traditional definition of marriage continues to meaningfully serve society's legitimate interests, and they cannot yet know how those interests will be affected by fundamentally redefining marriage."

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who authored the Prop 8 decision, made clear that the court was ruling on the "narrowest grounds" specific to circumstances concerning the passage of Prop 8 and was leaving the more general question concerning whether under the Constitution same-sex couples "may ever be denied the right to marry" to be resolved "in other states" and by "other courts."

Opponents of Prop 8 are represented by David Boies, and Theodore Olson, two lawyers who argued on opposite sides in Bush v. Gore.

They contend in court briefs that the question about whether the states might discriminate against gay men and lesbians in the provision of marriage licenses could be the "defining civil rights issue of our time."

They say that the Prop 8 case might be an "attractive vehicle for approaching, if not definitively resolving, that issue."

"By eliminating the right of individuals of the same sex to marry, Proposition 8 relegated same-sex couples seeking government recognition of their relationships to so-called 'domestic partnerships.' Under California law, domestic partners are granted nearly all the substantive rights and obligations of a married couple, but are denied the venerated label of 'marriage' and all of the respect, recognition and public acceptance that goes with that institution," Boies and Olson say.

But because they won at the lower court, even though it was a narrow ruling, they have urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case. In part, they argue, the court should decline the case because more review would delay the ability of their clients to marry in California.

The Supreme Court could still act Monday in a number of ways. Even if it granted the case, it could issue an opinion narrowly tailored to California and, thus, avoid the broader question regarding a fundamental right to same sex marriage. It could decline to take up the appeal, which would mean gay marriages could resume in California.

Court watchers speculate that some of the conservative members of the court who are uncomfortable with a lower court decision that struck down a successful ballot initiative, might have a greater concern with Justice Anthony Kennedy's ultimate vote. While it only takes four justices to agree to take a case, it takes five to win and Kennedy is seen as a likely swing vote.

"Conservative justices hoping to find an ally in Justice Kennedy may be concerned about his majority opinion in favor of gay rights advocates in two previous cases in 1996 and 2003," professor Margaret Russell of the Santa Clara University School of Law said.

"Kennedy's basic approach in those cases was to protect the individual liberty and choices of gay men and lesbians."

Other justices might vote against taking up the case out of a belief that the issue should be allowed to percolate further at the state level.

Nine states and the District of Columbia allow (or will soon allow) gay marriage.

Besides the Prop 8 case, called Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Justices Friday will also address several challenges to a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Such cases do not involve a fundamental right to gay marriage, as the couples involved are already legally married in their state. Instead, at issue is whether legally married same-sex couples (in states that allow gay marriage) can be denied federal benefits, such as Social Security survivor benefits and federal health care, that are available to opposite-sex couples.

The Obama administration decided in 2011 to no longer defend DOMA in court, arguing that it was unconstitutional. Two federal appeals courts have struck down the law.

Because the government refuses to defend the law in court, Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio moved to intervene and appointed the U.S. House of Representatives Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to do so.

Paul D. Clement serves as BLAG's lawyer and stresses that DOMA was enacted with strong majorities in both houses of Congress and was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. In court briefs, Clement writes that DOMA was not meant to invalidate any marriages, but "simply asserts the federal government's right as separate sovereign to provide its own definition which governs only federal programs and funding."

Kenji Yoshino, a professor at New York University School of Law, believes that the court is more likely to take up one of the DOMA cases than the Prop 8 case. "I think the court is almost certain to take the DOMA cases, as they involve lower courts striking down a federal statute rather than a state law, as is the case in the Prop 8 case," he says.

"The DOMA case also asks the court for less, in that it does not affect the marriage law in any state. Rather it returns the Congress to its traditional posture of deferring to state definitions of marriage."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional by Federal Appeals Court – A federal appeals court in Boston has ruled unconstitutional a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The appeals court ruled that the law discriminates against marriage of same-sex couples -- saying that it keeps them from getting federal benefits.

The court left untouched the power of states to enact same-sex marriage laws and to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages done in other states.

The suit was brought by legally wed gay couples in Massachusetts, seeking the more than 1,000 benefits due to married couples under federal law. They include the right to file a joint tax return, and, for government workers, to have their spouses receive federal insurance benefits.

The appeals court says only the Supreme Court can eventually decide the issue. And it puts the ruling on hold to allow Supreme Court justices to consider the case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Faces Questions on Federal Fight for Same-Sex Marriage

ABC/Lou Rocco(NEW YORK) -- Just days after affirming his support for same-sex marriage, President Obama Monday declined to say whether he would go a step further and publicly take up the fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

While the administration has already stopped defending legal challenges to the legislation, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, the president said the rest is up to Capitol Hill.

“Congress is clearly on notice that I think it’s a bad idea,” the president said in an interview on ABC’s The View.

“This is going to be a big contrast in the campaign, because you’ve got Gov. Romney saying we should actually have a constitutional amendment installing the notion that you can’t have same-sex marriages,” Obama said.

When asked by ABC’s Barbara Walters if he would fight federal laws that limit the rights of gay and lesbian couples, the president said, “We don’t think the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional.”

“This is something that historically had been determined at the state level and part of my believing ultimately that civil unions weren’t sufficient, and I’ve been a longtime supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples, was partly because of the issue of Social Security benefits and other laws,” the president said.

Obama had long said he opposed same-sex marriage, but repeatedly qualified that by saying that his view was “evolving,” as he delayed taking a firm stance on the social issue. But last week, in an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, the president declared he now believes same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

Obama was making his fourth appearance on The View, and his second as president. Obama made history as the first sitting president to make an appearance on daytime television when he visited the women of The View in July 2010.

The full interview airs Tuesday on ABC.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Pledges ‘Personal Fidelity to My Spouse’

Kris Connor/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Newt Gingrich, who has married three times, promised personal fidelity going forward and provided a lengthy written response to an Iowa social conservative group’s so-called “Marriage Vow.” But he did not sign the pledge.

“I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others,” Gingrich wrote in response to the Family Leader’s request for him to sign the 14-point pledge.

Gingrich also promised to “enforce the Defense of Marriage Act,” to support a “federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman” and to “oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman,” among other things.

The group’s leader, Bob Vander Plaats, an influential conservative in the state, said members of the organization were “pleased that Speaker Gingrich has affirmed our pledge and are thankful we have on record his statements regarding DOMA, support of a federal marriage amendment, defending the unborn, pledging fidelity to his spouse, defending religious liberty and freedom, supporting sound pro-family economic issues, and defending the right of the people to rule themselves.”

While Gingrich affirmed the principles in the Family Leader’s pledge, he declined to sign it.

“Speaker Gingrich did not sign the pledge, but provided his written response affirming the principles laid out in the Marriage Vow,” according to a statement from the group.

Family Leader’s “Marriage Vow -- A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family,” equates same-sex marriage with bigamy and polygamy and calls on candidates to promise to be faithful to their spouses.

The two-page pledge includes a “Declaration of Dependence on Marriage and Family” that blames several factors for the deterioration of traditional marriage including “quickie divorce” and unmarried couples living together. The pledge also describes homosexuality as a choice and not genetic.

As the Iowa group points out, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum are the only candidates who have officially signed the pledge. So far, the other GOP candidates have declined.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defense of Marriage Act Repeal Takes a Step Forward in the Senate

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats’ efforts to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) took a procedural step forward Thursday, but final passage into law faces a very uphill climb.

By a party-line vote of 10-8, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the repeal of DOMA, the Clinton administration law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, out of committee by voting for the Respect for Marriage Act bill.

“So we begin with a single step on a march to equality,” committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said at a news conference following the vote.  “Marriage is a matter for the states to determine -- whether it’s my state or any other state.  And those Americans who are lawfully married should have the same protection under federal laws that my wife and I enjoy.”

While noting disappointment at not having a single Republican vote in the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., hailed the procedural step.

“DOMA is discriminatory,” Feinstein said.  “DOMA prevents people legally married in a state to get the same rights and benefits -- federal rights and benefits that a heterosexual couple would get.  So it treats one class differently from another class.”

The bill’s next step is to be sent to the full Senate for consideration.  It’s unclear when, if at all, the majority leader will take up the bill in front of the full Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Vote to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act Is Delayed

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee met Thursday to discuss legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but after a procedural hold up the legislation has been delayed until next week for a vote.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced in March of this year, would provide federal protection to couples married in states that recognize same-sex marriages.

“DOMA has created a tier of second-class families who are not treated equally under the law,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“This runs counter to the values upon which America was founded.”

The bill would redefine marriage to be determined by the States, as it historically has been.

“The Respect for Marriage Act would restore the power of states to define and determine 'marriage' without the Federal Government imposing its restrictive definition of marriage on the states,” said Leahy.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) echoed Leahy’s remarks.

“It has been firmly established over decades, that family law, including marriage, is a legal (preserved) to the state.”

Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. However, according to DOMA, which was passed in 1996, marriage is defined as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

“When DOMA passed no state had passed a same sex marriage bill,” Feinstein said during the meeting.

“Where now today there are 131,000 same sex couples in the United States. They are real people. They’re our family members, our friends, our neighbors. They made a solid commitment of marriage to each other.”

Leahy and Feinstein, who are two of the cosponsors of the bill, were quick to point out that nothing in the bill would force any state or religion to perform same-sex marriages, simply recognize the “1,100 federal rights and benefits provided to every other legally married couple in the country,” said Feinstein.

Some of the rights that are not awarded to same-sex marriages include: filing joint income taxes, veterans’ benefits, employment benefits, and immigration laws.

Republicans on the committee Thursday requested that the vote be delayed until next week.

However, the legislation is expected to pass the panel when it comes to a vote, as it is supported by all 10 Democrats on the committee.  After that the legislation will go to the full Senate for consideration.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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