It’s bad news-good news time in Congress: As right-wing legislators are trying to roll back the rights of same-sex couples, some liberal lawmakers are seeking greater protections for LGBT young people.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a favorite of the far right and a possible Republican presidential candidate, this week reintroduced the State Marriage Defense Act, which would prevent the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples who don’t live in a marriage equality state. Since the 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government has recognized all marriages that were legal in the state where they were performed, regardless of where a couple lives.
“Even though the Supreme Court made clear in United States v. Windsor that the federal government should defer to state ‘choices about who may be married,’ the Obama administration has disregarded state marriage laws enacted by democratically elected legislatures to uphold traditional marriage,” Cruz said in a statement issued Tuesday, when he introduced the legislation. “I support traditional marriage and we should reject attempts by the Obama administration to force same-sex marriage on all 50 states.”
Eleven other Republican senators joined Cruz in introducing the measure, and Rep. Randy Weber of Texas introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. Similar bills were introduced last year but went nowhere.
The legislation would strip same-sex couples of many of the rights and benefits that go with federal recognition, such as federal employee spousal benefits, military spousal benefits, and immigration rights.
“In the name of protecting ‘states’ rights,’ the bill would take spousal benefits away from the wife of a soldier serving in Afghanistan if she and their children were stationed in a state without marriage equality,” noted a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. “In order to ‘defend marriage,’ his legislation would force a grieving widower to pay an unfair tax on his husband’s estate, simply because the couple had retired nearer to grandchildren in their golden years. This legislation would make our nation’s already-unfair patchwork of laws even more burdensome for same-sex couples, and undermine the promise of equal treatment embodied in the historic Windsor decision.”
The legislation comes as nationwide marriage equality is a strong possibility, with the Supreme Court ready to consider the issue this spring. A positive decision from the court would make same-sex marriage legal in all states.
Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, both Democrats, this week reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit public schools from discriminating based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and require them to take action against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Franken and Polis first introduced the legislation in 2010.
“No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied,” Franken said in a press release. Polis added, “It’s simply unacceptable that in 2015, there are thousands of students who face bullying and harassment every day when they get to school simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”