Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduces the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), which would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Nadler was flanked by openly gay Representatives Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of Colorado, and representatives of national and state LGBT advocacy.
In addition to Nadler, Baldwin and Polis, the leading co-sponsors are John Conyers of Michigan, John Lewis of Georgia, Nydia Velazquez of New York and Barbara Lee of California (seen to the right of Nadler). There are 91 co-sponsors in total. Complete list here.
Nadler calls the RMA "the first step to overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and sending that ugly law into the history books where it belongs."
The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld covered the Capitol Hill news conference: "Nadler later read a statement from former President Bill Clinton thanking [the sponsors] 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.'"
In addition to Lee and Conyers, sponsoring members of the Congressional Black Caucus include Alcee Hastings (FL), Yvette Clarke (NY), Donna Edwards (MD), Chaka Fatah (PA) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL). The National Black Justice Coalition calls on the entire CBC to support the legislation. Says Deputy Director Jason Bartlett: "As African Americans, we know all too well the injustices that laws such as this impose on our communities and our families. 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."
The Human Rights Campaign reports the Respect for Marriage Act "would restore the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples—to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. The bill also provides same-sex couples with certainty that federal benefits and protections would flow from a valid marriage celebrated in a state where such marriages are legal, even if a couple moves or travels to another state...rights like Social Security survivors’ benefits, medical leave to care for an ailing spouse and equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws along."
Not present at the news conference was openly Rep. Barney Frank, who says the bill has "zero" chance passage in the near term and believes several federal lawsuits challenging DOMA will be more successful. Nadler disagrees: "Mr. Frank knows better than anyone that our opponents will falsely claim that any DOMA repeal bill 'exports marriage' in an effort to generate fear and misunderstanding. But the dishonest tactics of our opponents should not stop us from aggressively pushing to end this horrific discrimination now. Our bill does not tell any state who it must marry or what marriage it must recognize under state law."
[images via HRC]