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DOMA Repeal Bill Passes Out Of Senate Committee

Jim Burroway

November 10th, 2011

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) this morning on a 10-8 vote after two hours of debate. The RMA would not only repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it would also require the federal government to recognize the marriage of any couple “valid in the state where the marriage was entered into.” This provision would also apply even if the couple lived in a state where the marriage wasn’t recognized.

The Washington Blade reported yesterday that three amendments had been proposed to the bill. But in today’s hearing, ranking minority committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said, “We know where the votes are,” and declined to offer the amendments.

A similar bill to repeal DOMA has been introduced in the House, but the GOP-controlled chamber is not expected to take up the bill.

Update: Here’s a video of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) fact-checking Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on the supposedly unchanging definition of marriage:

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Lucrece
November 10th, 2011 | LINK

A fundraiser gesture. They should’ve introduced the bill when they had majorities in both houses.

Screw them, they’re not getting a penny from me.

Ryan
November 10th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with Lucrece. Moving forward now is just farce. Even before 2010, our chances were low with all the Blue Dogs. Now it’s just a chance for both sides to grandstand to their respective bases.

JCF
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

Call me crazy, but compared to the alternative, I LIKE being grandstanded to!

In the past 235 years, MANY times civil rights bills have required multiple sessions of Congress to pass.

You can’t pass it if you don’t try it. This is how it STARTS. Now!

Ryan
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

Why now, and not two years ago? I hate being grandstanded. Dems probably wont have another huge majority like they did in 08 for another decade or more. Our only hope now is Anthony Kennedy. The rest is meaningless.

Timothy Kincaid
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

I think that there has been INCREDIBLE movement in the Country’s attitudes on marriage in the past two years. I very much doubt that the Democrat would have had public support – or even Democrat legislators support – two years ago.

So while I fault the Dems on DADT (Without Collins and Lieberman it would still be law), I don’t fault them for not moving sooner on DOMA.

Andrew
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

I really appreciated how Franken prefaced his comments with RESPECT and, ultimately AFFECTION. Until recently, the Senate was a body where cooler heads prevailed, and there could be more honest discussion. If you recall, Franken barely won his seat, and there was much made about whether or not he could be a) serious and b) collegial. So this doesn’t go without saying. I think Franken has turned out to be one of the best Senators the country has.

His comments were a hell of a way to say “honestly, I like you, and I respect you, but I’m about to tee you up and knock your previous statement so far down the runway… and it’s so simple that it’s going to look insulting, and I’m really sorry about that. But it’s my job”.

Ryan
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

You fault the Dems on DADT? In what way? How is that possible? You’re right, of course, that repeal wouldn’t have happened without Collins and Lieberman, but it also wouldn’t have happened without Reid and every single democrat who voted for it (which was all of them, in the Senate, at least). As for DOMA repeal, I agree that with all the Blue Dogs, repeal would’ve been unlikely and difficult. But now, it’s literally impossible, despite the public’s changing attitudes. Surely even you, the Republican’s biggest defender, acknowledge that?

Ryan
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

@Andrew, I agree that Franken has conducted himself with dignity and class these past three years that I think even his biggest fans like me didn’t know he was capable of. I love his “slow burn” way of calling Republican collegues out right to their faces, without a hint of animosity, despite his long-term reputation of being a hot head and an asshole.

Mark F.
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

The fact is that DOMA repeal would not have passed if it were left up to the Democrats ALONE–despite the fact that they had the majorities to do so.

Mark F.
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

Sorry, I meant DADT repeal.

Stefan
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

I’m so proud to call Al Franken my senator. I have also met him and shaken his hand. Very nice guy.

Ryan
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

Not true, Mark F. They needed 60 in the Senate and only had 59. They needed Collins. There was a flurry of votes in the lame dog session that linked repeal to the Defense bill, ( which was everyone on our side’s consensus was the best shot) and then a bunch of grandstanding bullshit on both sides, (I now believe no one involved at the time actually thought repeal would happen that way at all), and then the eleventh hour save by Collins and Lieberman, which I now believe Reid knew about all along. The whole thing was ugly as hell, but the Dems got it done, with an invaluable assist by Collins and Lieberman.

Timothy Kincaid
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

Ryan,

As for DOMA repeal, I agree that with all the Blue Dogs, repeal would’ve been unlikely and difficult. But now, it’s literally impossible, despite the public’s changing attitudes. Surely even you, the Republican’s biggest defender, acknowledge that?

Ummmm, I don’t know how to respond. Frankly, considering that I was defending Democrats from you, this comment is just loony.

As for Reid, either you weren’t reading BTB or you have forgotten. There were times when it seemed as though Reid was deliberately trying to torpedo the effort.

I mean, c’mon, calling a spontaneous now-or-never vote without doing a vote-count and when one of the supporters was literally in a dentist chair is behavior not typical of an ardent supporter.

My personal opinion (and take it for just that) is that Reid didn’t want DADT to be overturned. Either he feared that it would hurt Democrats or he had personal Mormon misgivings or (cynical possibility) if gay people are treated equal under the law then they don’t have to vote Democratic.

But whatever level of commitment there was in the Democratic Senate (and there were many many good supporters) for overturning DADT, Collins and Lieberman revived the effort when literally every gay activist and every gay pundit thought it was dead. So, no, they don’t get equal billing with Reid. They were the heroes, he was the asterisk.

Ryan
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t know why the comment is “looney”. You seemed to be defending the Dems by saying DOMA repeal has a better chance now than it did two years ago. I maintain that it had probably a %10 chance two years ago and a 0% chance now. JCF argued that it was all about getting votes on the record and trying again and again. I think he’s probably right, but I wish we had started two years ago when there was even the slightest chance of victory.

I did read BTB at the time and I do remember. Despite our differences, I think BTB is the best gay news site on the web. IRRC, even though the conventional wisdom was that the only way to get repeal passed was by attaching it to the defense bill, partisian bickering on both sides rendered that impossible, so Reid finally ended things quickly and uncerimoniously by calling for the instant-vote right before voting with the majority and killing the bill for good, because he knew (even though we didn’t) that Collins and Lieberman were waiting in the wings with a straight up-or-down vote on repeal, that I believe happened later that day, or the next day.
Your cynicism about Reid’s motives is pretty hard wrap my head around, frankly, given your incredible “optimism” about Republicans and their attitudes towards gays.

Lucrece
November 11th, 2011 | LINK

It’s not like changing attitudes has moved Republicans to look past primary bases.

DADT repeal enjoyed over 70% support and yet only a minuscule fraction broke from party consensus.

The only reason to keep Democrats around is for SCOTUS nominations and because when SCOTUS ultimately resolves this matter, as Congress will not for still a decade to come, it’s Democrats who won’t scramble for a constitutional amendment.

Laura
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

Al Franken is a National treasure. It is so refreshing to have someone willing to call it like he sees it and speak up when his ‘distinguished colleagues’ spew forth bs.

Ben In Oakland
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

I sent this to both the des moines Register and to Sen. Grasshat. Maybe the one will respond, and the other publish.

Dear Senator Grassley,

In opposing repeal of this heinous and misnamed Defense of Marriage Act, you claimed the debate over marriage “is about stable families, good environments for raising children, and religious belief. It is not about discriminating against anyone.”

Apparently, Senator, you have never read the law. There is not one word in it about families, stable or otherwise, about raising children, or religion. There is not one clause in it that provides any kind of help or benefit or support for any marriage or family. It says only that the Federal government won’t recognize some civil marriages, or religiously solemnized civil marriages, legally contracted in some states, arguably opposing the equal application and protection of the law for all citizens, and favoring one religious belief over others. It is also something the Federal government has never seen fit to do before, even when inter-racial marriage was illegal in some states, and justified by sincere religious belief.

DOMA also allows the states to ignore those legal civil marriages contracted in other states, in blatant violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. The Supreme Court ultimately stopped allowing the states to do that as well when it repudiated banning interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia, also often justified as “sincere religious belief.”

But if you really want to go down that road, I have a lot of questions for you. According to the California Supreme Court marriage equality decision, there are 70,000 children in California ALONE that are being raised in same-sex households. And according to just about every study on the subject, and every major professional, medical, and scientific organization, they are doing a good job of it, despite the fabrications of the professionally ignorant and the politically motivated.

And despite the animus that we gay people and our families must live with on a daily basis.

What about the stability of those couples, families, and children, when they are denied the legal protections of marriage? Do these families not matter? Does not their stability contribute to society exactly as does that of heterosexual households? Does having unmarried parents and punitive laws make a good environment for raising those children? Why aren’t you more concerned about a 40% divorce rate, a 25-33% adultery rate, and a 40% illegitimacy rate among the 97% that are heterosexual, than about marriage among the 3% who are not? How does DOMA address any of that?

And what about using the coercive power of the state to enforce conservative Christian beliefs about homosexuality onto civil marriage, onto people, religious or not, and onto whole denominations, who don’t share them? And if that is not invidious discrimination on the basis of religious belief, then what is?

Does it make it better for even one heterosexual household to withhold marriage from gay people? Or does DOMA merely do what it was intended to do—express animus and legally disadvantage gay people and their families?

As a gay man, happily and legally married to another man, as an American citizen, a tax payer, a law-abiding, productive, contributing member of society, whose marriage is supported and endorsed by my community, I have only one last question for you:

Where is it written, either in the Bible or in the Constitution of the United States, the gay human beings MUST be treated differently– and not in a good way– from human beings who are not gay?

Mark F.
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

Ryan, you admit the Democrats would have failed in getting DADT repealed without Collins and Lieberman. What’s the argument?

fred5
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

@Ben in Oakland

DOMA also allows the states to ignore those legal civil marriages contracted in other states, in blatant violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution.

No, it wasn’t a “blatant violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause”.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

It’s always that second part that people forget. It allows the Congress to regulate the first part if they so chose. And that is exactly what they did in DOMA when they told the states they didn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages from states that allowed it.

I’m not saying that it was nice of Congress to do it but they hardly violated any laws or the Constitution by doing so.

Erin
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

“I’m not saying that it was nice of Congress to do it but they hardly violated any laws or the Constitution by doing so.”

It violates equal protection.

Ben In Oakland
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

Fred– I haven’t read any legal decisions on this matter, but i can read english. your interpretation of the second sentence contradicts the clear english of the first, and equal protection of the law.

Ryan
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

Yes Mark F, I fully acknowledge that the Democrats were unable to pass DADT repeal without Collins’ help. The argument was that you claimed that they had the majorities to do so, which they did not. Thankfully, Collins and a couple other brave Republican senators went against their party. Just like in NY during the gay marriage vote, more and more brave Republicans are following their individual consciences and going against their party’s ideals by voting for gay rights. That’s a good thing. I just don’t understand why they get more credit for it than the Democrats, when’s there’s just a few of them. I guess it’s like when you have a child who gets straight A’s you stop making a big deal about it,and when you have a child who gets straight D’s, everyone throws a party if he comes home with a B+.

Erin
November 12th, 2011 | LINK

Good point, Ben. It doesn’t say they can exempt certain laws, it says Congress can decide how varying states will prove a legal status to another.

fred5
November 13th, 2011 | LINK

@Ben in Oakland

Fred– I haven’t read any legal decisions on this matter, but i can read english. your interpretation of the second sentence contradicts the clear english of the first, and equal protection of the law.

Ben, I can also read English and nowhere in those two phrases is any contradiction. Article 4, Section 1 establishes that the states must give full faith and credit to the laws/legal decisions of the other states and, this is the word that starts the second clause, Congress may regulate the effects thereof by passage of appropriate law.

And that is exactly what Congress did when they included this in DOMA:

Section 2. Powers reserved to the states
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Again, Congress did nothing illegal when they included this language in DOMA as the Constitution specifically authorizes Congress to do this if they so wish.

Section 1 – Each State to Honor all others

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Mark F.
November 14th, 2011 | LINK

Well, Ryan, I would sort have expected that the “pro-gay” party with 60 votes in the Senate and a House majority would have been able to get DADT repealed without outside help.

But credit where credit is due, including many Democrats.

Mark F.
November 14th, 2011 | LINK

It seems to may that Congress can’t exempt states from “full faith and credit.” Otherwise, why even have it in the Constitution?

However, the courts have never bought the argument that one state must accept a marriage performed in another. States usually do, but they are not compelled to.

Ryan
November 14th, 2011 | LINK

Mark F,
The Democrats only had 60 votes for a few months, after Franken took months to get sworn in and then Kennedy died. The window was very small and it was right in the middle of the Health Care stuff. They had 59 votes, for all intents and purposes, and all 59 voted for repeal. Credit where credit is due, indeed.

Timothy Kincaid
November 15th, 2011 | LINK

Ryan,

Thankfully, Collins and a couple other brave Republican senators went against their party. Just like in NY during the gay marriage vote, more and more brave Republicans are following their individual consciences and going against their party’s ideals by voting for gay rights. That’s a good thing. I just don’t understand why they get more credit for it than the Democrats, when’s there’s just a few of them.

Yes, the individual Republicans in New York may be getting a bit more credit than any individual Democrats because they risked more and it cost them more to support us. But both were needed.

And I personally give a lot of credit to Dean Skelos who could have single-handedly stopped the marriage bill (a couple different ways) but decided to allow it to become law (other than NOM, I’m pretty much alone in that).

But it is Cuomo (with Bloomberg) who is getting most of the credit. And, as he was the driving force, he deserves it. No matter what his party might be.

But as for DADT… sorry, but the credit goes to the person who fought to make it happen, not the one who was obstructionist in every possible circumstance. Collins’ patience is astounding. Reid repeatedly refused to meet her part way or give ANY concessions for her to build a coalition around. Zero conciliation, all bluster, all partisan crap. She did it anyway.

I’m thankful for the Democrats (and Republicans) who voted for repeal. They deserve credit.

But you can’t gild a turd. You can’t decide that Reid had a special secret plan that he would spring on everyone (of which Collins was a pawn) and surprise, surprise, when Collins and Lieberman did an end-pass around him – well it was what he intended all the while.

Credit for DADT repeal belongs to Collins and Lieberman. Not as an “also voted”, not as “Collins and”, not as “a B+”, and sure as hell not as “an invaluable assist”.

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