Thank you for contacting me regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
The Defense of Marriage Act (Public Law 104-199), commonly known as “DOMA,” was proposed by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) in 1996. Signed into law by President Clinton, it defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. It also allowed states, territories, possessions and Indian tribes to choose whether to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Since this decision, six states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Three other states recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but do not grant licenses to same-sex couples themselves. In Washington state, Governor Gregoire signed into law the “Everything but Marriage” bill in 2009, which provides domestic partners with expanded benefits. Later in 2009, Washington state voters approved Referendum 71, which upheld this law. I fully support the “Everything but Marriage” bill to expand benefits to same-sex couples, because it takes our state in a new and better direction.
As you may know, on February 23, 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA in cases before a U.S. federal court. Attorney General Holder announced this decision upon the determination by President Obama that defining marriage as only a legal union between one man and one woman is unconstitutional. I strongly support and applaud the President’s decision.
However, on March 9, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, consisting of the top three Republicans and the top two Democrats, adopted a resolution on a three to two party-line vote to intervene in pending cases challenging DOMA. The House General Counsel now will have the authority to retain outside counsel to defend DOMA in federal courts. I am extremely disappointed that House Republicans are planning to waste taxpayer money defending a fourteen-year-old policy that needs to end.
On March 16, 2011, I signed on as an original cosponsor of S. 598, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011. Introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), this bill would repeal DOMA and provide certainty with regard to Federal benefits and obligations for legally married couples. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to fight to end this fourteen-year-old policy and make sure all married couples are treated equally in the eyes of the federal government.
Please know that I will continue to fight for equal rights for LGBT Americans. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at http://murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=GetEmailUpdates. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
United States Senator