A bill that would repeal the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) has cleared a U.S. Senate committee.
The bill was approved along party
lines, with all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voting
in favor and all 8 Republicans opposed.
The proposed bill would eliminate the
1996 law which bars federal agencies and the military from
recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples and allows
states to ignore such unions.
In her remarks to the committee,
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chief sponsor of the measure
in the Senate, said DOMA needed to be repealed because the law
affects thousands of gay couples.
“I believe it's pretty clear that the
time has come to repeal DOMA. When DOMA was passed no one was
affected because no one was legally married because no state had
passed a law. That's changed now. We have 7 states, we have 131,000
married couples, and the discriminatory nature of DOMA is showing up
throughout the business and professional communities of this
country,” Feinstein said.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called
Chairman Patrick Leahy's decision to bring the bill up for a vote
“unwise” and went on to defend the law, saying denying gay
couples the right to marry was not discriminatory.
“It's not about discriminating
against anyone,” Grassley told colleagues. “No society has
limited marriage to heterosexual couples because of the desire to
create second class citizens. This differs from the treatment of
interracial marriages. Traditional marriage in many states until the
1960s was limited racially for reasons that had nothing to do with
the creation of marriage as an institution and everything to do with
racial discrimination. Loving vs. Virginian, which has been
referenced a number of times, has nothing to do with gay marriage.”
Texas Senator John Cornyn said he
objected to the bill because repeal would increase the nation's debt.
“Repealing the Defense of Marriage
Act would actually result in an expansion of federal benefits and
spending at a time when we know that federal spending is way out of
control and our entitlement programs are unsustainable. Repealing
the Defense of Marriage Act would actually increase the cost of
Social Security that's already insolvent,” Cornyn said. “No one
has paid into the Social Security system expecting benefits to be
paid to same-sex couples”
Before the panel agreed to vote on the
bill, Grassley announced that Republicans had decided not to offer
any amendments to the bill.
However, passage in the committee looks
to be as far as the bill will get any time soon. Feinstein has said
she doesn't have the votes for Senate passage. And the issue is a
non-starter in the House, where its speaker, John Boehner, a
Republican from Ohio, has approved up to $1.5 million to defend the
law in court.