Published On: Wed, Jan 7th, 2015

Nadler, Feinstein, Introduce Bill to Ensure Rights of All Married Couples

Jerrold Nadler

Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen today introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that all legally-married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the companion bill in the Senate today. Joining them on the bill are 77 additional House cosponsors and 41 other senators. A full list of House and Senate cosponsors is below.

“We must finish the job begun by the Supreme Court by passing the Respect for Marriage Act. The Supreme Court has ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, but Congress still must repeal the law in its entirety, ” said Representative Nadler, sponsor of the House bill.

Nadler continued: “The vast majority of Americans live in states where same-sex couples can marry and public support for marriage equality is growing stronger by the day. Repeal of DOMA is long overdue. That is why we are reintroducing the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals DOMA in its entirety and sends DOMA into the history books where it belongs. The bill provides a uniform rule for recognizing couples under federal law, ensuring that lawfully married couples will be recognized under federal law no matter where they live and guaranteeing that all families can plan for a future of mutual obligation and support with confidence.”

In June 2014, one year after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor v. United States, the Department of Justice issued a report concluding that without legislation, married same-sex couples will continue to be denied critical federal benefits.

Specifically, the report concluded the government could not issue Social Security or veterans’ benefits to some married, same-sex couples because the agencies “are required by law to confer marriage-related benefits based on the law of the state in which the married couple reside or resided, preventing the extension of benefits to same-sex married couples” in certain states.

Kathy Murphy and Sara Barker illustrate the problem of denying federal benefits based on where couple has lived. The couple, together for more than 30 years, was married in Massachusetts but lived in Texas. When cancer took Barker’s life, Murphy was denied spousal survivor’s benefits and the standard lump-sum death payment awarded by the Social Security Administration because they lived in Texas. Murphy filed suit in federal court in October 2014 and her case is pending.

The Justice Department report stated that enactment of a bill like the Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that federal benefits are awarded equally and that the administration would “work closely with Congress to ensure that veterans and elderly and disabled Americans can obtain for themselves or their spouses the essential benefits they have earned no matter where they live.”
“Congress must repeal DOMA and ensure that married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, which is what this bill will do, ” said Senator Feinstein. “Only when this bill is passed will we be able to guarantee the federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage for all loving couples. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill.”

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