Democrats Urge DOMA Repeal; Senate Panel Hears Gay Couples Seeking Federal Benefits

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 21, 2011 | Go to article overview

Democrats Urge DOMA Repeal; Senate Panel Hears Gay Couples Seeking Federal Benefits


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Senate and House Democrats urged their colleagues at a Wednesday hearing to support a bill that would repeal the federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, so federal benefits and rights can flow to gay couples who are legally married under a state law.

I believe it is important that we encourage and sanction committed relationships, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who called the hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

But Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said that George Orwell would have marveled at that name of the Respect for Marriage Act.

A real respect-for-marriage bill would restore marriage as it has been known: as between one man and one woman, Mr. Grassley said. This bill would undermine, not restore, marriage by repealing DOMA.

The hearing, held a few days before New York starts to allow gay marriages, was anchored around testimonies of legally married gay couples who were denied the status of married couples for such federal-law purposes as immigration and taxation.

DOMA defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Retired Connecticut school principal Andrew Sorbo said he could inherit his late husband's IRA, but not his Veterans Administration pension check. Vermont lawyer Susan Murray said she and her wife recently paid $792 in higher taxes because they cannot file as a married couple.

Ronald Wallen said that when his husband died in March, Mr. Wallen could not claim his higher Social Security benefits because of DOMA. …

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