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 14 2009 12:00 AM ET

While President Obama
supports full repeal of DOMA, Solmonese said it was difficult
to gauge whether this legislation would be prioritized by the
White House because the Administration has not provided such
information to the HRC.

"We have had
weekly conversations with the White House about the agenda for
our community, but we haven't gotten the priority list from
the White House," he said.

Anders explained that
the two key disparate groups legislators are keeping in mind
are those couples who are the most mobile and those who are the
least. For instance, they want to cover couples who live in
Massachusetts or Iowa and marry but then choose to move to
another state for a job or to care for a family member or to
retire.

"But there are
also lots of people who are living in the state they were born
in," Anders said, "and it doesn't seem that
people should be locked out of federal protections simply
because they can't move and may not have the resources or
mobility to do so."

Another option some
have suggested is creating a set of criteria, or a federal
trigger, that would qualify a couple for federal benefits
regardless of whether they are legally unioned in any
particular state. While this would provide a way to debate
federal benefits outside of the emotion surrounding marriage,
Anders said the option has not been under serious consideration
and was losing steam fast now that there is a greater
proliferation of states extending full marriage rights to
same-sex couples, which essentially makes marriage regionally
accessible to more people.

The Government
Accountability Office reported in 2004 that a total of 1,138
federal benefits are associated with marital status; people
generally cite issues like Social Security survivor benefits,
federal health benefits, and equal tax treatment as major
concerns. A same-sex partner cannot, for instance, collect the
Social Security payments of a deceased partner. Partners of
federal employees are not eligible for inclusion on their
health insurance. In terms of taxation, same-sex partners
cannot file joint tax returns; insurance benefits offered to
same-sex partners by employers is taxed as extra income rather
than being deducted from pre-tax dollars; and while married
spouses can transfer an unlimited amount of money to each other
without being taxed, anyone else is limited to transfers of up
to $12,000 annually.

Tags: Politics

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