Congressional Leaders Mull Partial DOMA Repeal

Some Congressional members are considering repealing part of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.

BY Kerry Eleveld

April 13 2009 11:00 PM ET

Discussions around
repealing a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that
prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex
marriages have heated up in the wake of recent legal challenges
filed and the addition of two new states legalizing same-sex
marriage.

Legislative aides
familiar with the discussions say a handful of congressional
leaders have been hashing out the details of the legislation,
which would accomplish two goals: repeal section 3 of DOMA as
it relates to the federal government's ability to confer
some 1,100 federal benefits on same-sex partners; and
provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not
allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits
afforded to heterosexual spouses.

The most immediate
benefits of passing such a bill would go to legally married gay
couples -- those who have married or will marry in Connecticut
or Massachusetts, those who married in California
while it was legal (pending the state supreme court decision
over the validity of those marriages), and those soon to marry
in Iowa and Vermont. Same-sex couples in New York,
which recognizes legal marriages performed outside of the
state, would also be among the first beneficiaries.

But Christopher Anders,
senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties
Union, said legislators are also intent on making federal
benefits available to same-sex couples living outside those six
states. "People are coalescing around the idea of a
50-state solution by recognizing unions that are recognized in
at least one state," he said. "There's a growing consensus
around that."

By all accounts, the
bill will not disrupt section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual
states the ability to determine what type of unions
they deem legal. "It still protects federalism -- states
are still able to make their own decision about what state
benefits to offer," Anders added.

According to sources
who spoke on the condition of anonymity, legislators involved
in the planning include senators Christopher Dodd, Russ
Feingold, and Chuck Schumer, and representatives Tammy Baldwin,
Barney Frank, Jerrold Nadler, and Jared Polis.

Tags: Politics

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