The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines Thursday to approve Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
“DOMA was wrong when it passed in 1996 and it is wrong now,” Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement issued after the vote. “There are 131,000 legally married, same-sex couples in this country who are denied more than 1,100 federal rights and protections because of this discriminatory law. I don’t know how long the battle for full equality will take, but we are on the cusp of change, and today’s historic vote in the committee is an important step forward.”
Among other inequalities, married same-sex couples can’t file joint federal income taxes and claim certain deductions; receive Social Security spousal benefits; take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act; get protection from the estate tax when one spouse tries to leave property or assets to the other.
Feinstein’s S.598 has 30 co-sponsors, all Democrats.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, said at the hearing that the vote was a waste of time given the bill lacks enough votes to pass the Senate floor. “This Orwellian bill does not restore anything,” he said. “Restoring marriage would mean restoring marriage as it has existed for thousands of years. The rights that the bill would create for same-sex couples are not a restoration of any rights. They are new rights that same-sex couples have never had under federal law.”
Same-sex marriage equality advocates disagreed.
“For the first time in history, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to make gays and lesbians whole people,” Courage Campaign founder and chairman Rick Jacobs said Thursday. “This truly historic vote today should never have been necessary because this absurd law should never have been on the books. Thanks to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, we have a bill that can move to the Senate floor where fair-minded people who believe in a nation united, not divided, can end federal discrimination against gay and lesbian couples legally married in six states and the District of Columbia. Sadly, the Republicans think this is a partisan issue, but then some thought the same about the other great civil rights issues of this nation. Eventually, America is just.”