Friday, November 11, 2011

Senate Panel Votes Repeal DOMA

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The vote was 10-8, with all committee Democrats favoring appeal and all Republicans opposed. The only immediate effect is political: Democrats can show part of their liberal base of backers that they strongly support equality in federal benefits for gay couples.

The repeal bill would need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and sponsors acknowledged the votes aren’t there. The measure would have no chance in the House, controlled by conservative Republicans.

The current federal law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, has a huge negative economic impact on gay couples through the denial of federal government benefits.

Those couples cannot file joint federal income tax returns and take deductions available in traditional marriages. There are no spousal Social Security benefits. They can’t take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave law that protects one’s job and health insurance during emergency absences. Surviving gay spouses have no protection from estate taxes.

Because of the law, “thousands of American families are now being treated unfairly by their federal government,” said the committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “They are shunted aside — singled out from all other marriages recognized by their states.”

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, called it “simply wrong to claim that the bill would create federal benefits for all lawfully married couples. In reality, it would create federal benefits for many same-sex couples who are not lawfully married.”

The Republicans accused the Democrats of bringing up the vote for political reasons in order to solidify their standing with the LGBT community. Gee, it’s not like the GOP would ever suck up to one of their constituencies. “I’m shocked, shocked to finding pandering going on here!”

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has a little lesson on the history of marriage for Sen. Grassley.