Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) had a press conference today to announce the introduction of the "Respect for Marriage Act." The legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. Interestingly enough, Clinton sent a statement to be read at the presser.
"Today, we celebrate the first step toward overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and sending that ugly law into the history books where it belongs," said Nadler, adding that the new RMA bill has 91 original cosponsors.
Nadler later read a statement from former President Bill Clinton thanking Reps. Nadler, Baldwin, Polis, John Conyers of Michigan, John Lewis of Georgia, Nydia Velazquez of New York and Barbara Lee of California, for introducing the legislation. Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996.
"Throughout my life I have opposed discrimination of any kind," Clinton said in the statement. "When the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, gay couples could not marry anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter. Thirteen years later, the fabric of our country has changed, and so should this policy."
91 original co-sponsors is a big deal; I never would have thought they'd get that many. Rep Barney Frank is not a co-sponsor.
The LGBT orgs pumped out statements right after the press conference; they're after the jump.
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's Rea Carey:
"We thank Reps. Nadler, Baldwin, Polis, Lewis and Velazquez for introducing this bill to dismantle one of the most discriminatory and far-reaching laws to emerge against our community: the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act.'
"DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity. This hateful law has only served to discriminate against people and belittle our country's heralded values of freedom, fairness and justice. It is long past time to repeal DOMA, which has left a moral scar on this country. Today marks an important step toward closing an ugly chapter in our nation's history, and for working to ensure same-sex couples and our families are treated fairly. Too many families have been hurt for far too long because of DOMA.
"We at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, along with people all across the country -- from every town and every background -- recognize that our entire nation benefits when everyone is allowed to contribute their talents and skills, free from discrimination. That's why we are urging for passage of the 'Respect for Marriage Act.'"
HRC's Joe Solmonese:
"The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a hurtful and cynical law enacted to discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples. It does real harm by denying thousands of lawfully-married same-sex couples the federal rights and benefits that only flow through marriage. Many of these include the protections couples turn to in times of need, like Social Security survivors' benefits, medical leave to care for an ailing spouse and equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws. Today's introduction of legislation to repeal DOMA is a welcome step, and as more states recognize the commitment of loving same-sex couples and their families, it's time for this law to go into the history books where it belongs."
Lambda Legal's Kevin Cathcart:
"It is long past time for DOMA to go. When DOMA passed in 1996 it was a gratuitous slap in the face. But now, 13 years later, there are thousands of married same-sex couples who are hurt by this law. We've come a long way in 13 years and the federal government shouldn't be in the business of deciding that some married couples are worthy of federal respect and others are not. Married same-sex couples pay federal taxes just like everyone else and have a right to the same important benefits and protections as everyone else."
Stonewall Democrats Interim Exec Director Kyle Bailey
"Pro-equality Democrats want to see our elected representatives take concrete action to advance equality, now.
"That's why we're proud of our friend Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, who today stood up for LGBT Americans by introducing legislation to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
"Stonewall Democrats across the country have been working day-in and day-out to hold Democrats accountable on their promises to the LGBT community and our allies. Our accountability work includes standing up for those elected officials who stand up for us."
Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Our view is that every branch of government should be engaged in the process of getting rid of this discriminatory law. Every day we see the damage DOMA causes families in the states, denying them access to the federal safety net, penalizing them financially, and rendering them second-class. We need to engage all levels of government in ending this discrimination.
Along with dozens of other groups, GLAD has signed a letter of support for the bill. The letter is being delivered to members of Congress today.
Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director and Bilerico Project contributor
"DOMA is discriminatory and harmful to families. Married same-sex couples pay taxes, serve their communities, struggle to balance work and family, and raise children and care for aging parents like other Americans. Their contributions and needs are no different than anyone else's and their relationships deserve the dignity and protection of federal recognition."
Deputy Director of the National Black Justice Coalition Jason Bartlett
"DOMA is an egregious piece of legislation as it codifies discrimination into federal law. As African Americans, we know all too well the injustices that laws such as this impose on our communities and our families. We encourage the Congressional Black Caucus to join us in calling for its repeal. As African Americans, we are sensitive to the federal government trying to define our families. Let us consign the mistakes of the past to history and move forward together. We call on Congress to pass the Respect to Marriage Act as we continue to fight for our civil rights."
National Equality March's Cleve Jones
It has been over 30 years since my friend and teacher, gay rights activist Harvey Milk, was assassinated. Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have won limited rights in a handful of states, but we are still second class citizens throughout the United States.
Harvey once said, "It takes no compromising to give people their rights."
This morning, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced a bill in Congress to repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." If passed by the Congress, Rep. Nadler's legislation would be a real step forward in the march for full equality and we applaud his efforts, but LGBT people must stop settling for compromises and half measures.
Equal rights are not a "gay" issue. They are about our shared human rights: safety in our schools and jobs, equitable healthcare and housing, and protection for our families, to name a few.