Senate Starts Effort to Dump Discrimination
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a historic hearing to kick off the process of undoing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that says states don’t have to recognize legal same-sex unions performed in other states and says the federal government can only define and recognize marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The committee took up a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Respect for Marriage Act. Here’s a rundown of the bill and some highlights from today’s hearing.
What It Means
By repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would allow same-sex couples to receive hundreds of the benefits of marriage that they currently are unconstitutionally denied, including:
- File joint federal tax returns and claim certain deductions
- Receive spousal benefits under Social Security
- Take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act when a loved one becomes ill
- Receive protection from the estate tax when one spouse dies and wants to leave possessions to the other
Why It Matters
“I lost my husband, my partner of…58 years and the love of my life, and now I’m going to lose the home we shared under very adverse circumstances because of this law.”
-Ron Wallen, a witness at today’s hearing, whose partner of 58 years died just shy of their third wedding anniversary.
Who Else Is On Board So Far
- President Obama, who endorsed the bill yesterday
- Eighteen other senators, including: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dan Inouye (D-HI), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI). (Of those in the Senate in 1996 when DOMA passed, Sens. Lautenberg and Leahy both voted for it, while Kerry, Boxer, Feinstein, Inouye, Akaka, and Wyden all voted against it.)
- Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has introduced a companion bill in the House. It has 119 co-sponsors.
Who Testified In Favor of Discrimination Today
The GOP invited three pro-discrimination witnesses to testify at today’s hearing:
- Austin Nimocks, Alliance Defense Fund
- Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family
- Ed Whelan, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Notably absent was anti-gay crusader Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage, who was quick to clarify today that she wasn’t too afraid to testify, she just hadn’t been invited by the Republicans.
For their part, GOP senators didn’t seem too interested in the proceedings. Only two Republicans bothered to showed up at all and only one, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) spoke. Every Democrat except one showed up and participated in today’s hearing.
Key Moments From Today’s Hearing
Sen. Grassley suggests that an unnamed pro-discrimination crusader was too afraid to testify:
A Focus on the Family witness admits that children are disadvantaged by lack of protections for same-sex couples:
Sen. Franken destroys the Focus on the Family witness, calling out his misuse of a Department of Health & Human Services study:
Sen. Schumer discusses how same-sex couples in New York will still face discrimination under DOMA, despite New York’s recently passed marriage equality law:
Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed
President Obama all but endorsed the Gang of Six plan, which would reduce social security benefits by $1,300 per year, enact a $1.5 trillion tax cut, and lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to between 23 and 29 percent.
The New Hampshire Executive Council failed to overturn a decision it made during its last meeting that stripped funding for Planned Parenthood to provide free contraceptives to lower income women, binding the state to council member Raymond Wieczorek’s logic: “If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it.
The U.N. officially declared a state of famine for parts of Somalia, with 3.7 million people “now in crisis” and over 10 million affected by worst drought in more than two decades.
Tim Pawlenty now says he will have made “progress” if he comes in sixth place in the Ames Straw Poll. Not long ago he vowed to come in third or higher.
Expanding Rep. Allen West’s (R-FL) definition of “ladylike” behavior.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has given the green light to medical marijuana, reports the Wall Street Journal.
According to Bloomberg, News Corp. officials have considered elevating current COO Chase Carey to chief executive officer to succeed Rupert Murdoch.
In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) has voiced his strong opposition to the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. “I have concluded that this acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies,” Kohl wrote in the letter.
A second man has been arrested relating to the break-in at the home of Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA). Police now believe the two intruders were members of the community, and targeted the congressman for money rather than for political reasons.
BusinessWeek reports that U.S. oil giant Chevron is attempting to invalidate a $18.2 billion judgment against them for pollution in Ecuador by going after the plaintiffs and attempting to invalidate the legitimacy of the Ecuadorean court system.
Funny Pages: Anti-Bob Vander Plaats Cartoon from Iowa
One view of the FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Vander Plaats, via the Des Moines City View: