Senate Committee Will Consider Measure to Repeal DOMA, Leahy Says

October 14, 2011

by Jeremy Leaming

While federal courts grapple with the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. Senators are moving forward on consideration of a bill to repeal the law, which discriminates against same-sex couples.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced today that a bill aimed at repealing DOMA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, would be considered by the Committee in November.

“The march for equality continues, and now is the time to ensure equality for gay and lesbian Americans who are lawfully married,” Leahy said in press statement. “Next month, I will call up the Respect for Marriage Act for debate and a vote in the Judiciary Committee. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal [DOMA], which prevents thousands of American families from being protected by laws that help secure other American families. This is part of the nation’s continuing fight for civil rights for all Americans.” (Leahy’s statement notes that President Obama has announced support for the measure.)

Earlier this year the Senate committee conducted a hearing on the repeal bill, of which Leahy (pictured) is a cosponsor. During the hearing, Sen. Al Franken tangled with Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, a Religious Right organization and longtime opponent of marriage equality, over a government study, which Minnery said supported the organization’s argument that children reared by their biological mothers and fathers fare better than children brought up in different families. Franken countered that Minnery had seriously misconstrued the Department of Health and Human Services report, saying it concluded no such thing.

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and a companion bill by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House.

Regarding DOMA’s fate in the federal courts, Geoffrey R. Stone, a leading constitutional law expert and professor at the University of Chicago law school, has called the law constitutionally suspect. In a piece for The Huffington Post, Stone wrote that the discriminatory law likely violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.