National and state officials aim to remove same-sex marriage bans from law books
The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) has been reintroduced by U.S. Senator Feinstein and U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The goal of RMA is to remove the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) completely. Passed in 1996, DOMA allows states that do not legally enact same-sex marriages to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
In June 2013, section three of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional after a Supreme Court challenge.What followed was a series of lawsuits which lead to individual state bans being struck down, including Virginia’s 2006 ban, the Marshall- Newman amendment.
Jo Deutsch, federal director of Freedom to Marry, has helped to address the need for the Respect for Marriage Act which would ultimately end federally codified discrimination against same-sex marriage.
”The Respect for Marriage Act seeks to fix major gaps in federal protections for married couples, especially in social security and veterans’ benefits,” said Deutsch in a recent statement. “We must keep working to end every vestige of federal marriage discrimination and send this mean-spirited law to the dustbin of history.”
Both the national Congress and the state level Senate and House have Respect for Marriage Bills which aim to remove the codified language banning same sex marriage.
The constitution of Virginia Article I section 15-A reads:
“That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”
Though the Supreme Court’s inaction has removed same-sex marriage bans nation wide, the ban still exists on the law books. Passing the RMA bill would erase the ban from the US constitution.
Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are both among the original 42 co-sponsors of the proposed bill.
“I am proud to once again be an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced on Tuesday. It will fully repeal DOMA, portions of which the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional in June 2013,” said Warner in a statement on January 7th, “Our country has seen remarkable progress with the marriage equality movement, and I am proud that as of October, Virginia stands with what are now 35 other states that legally recognize marriage equality.”
If the Defense of Marriage Act is fully repealed it would mean same sex married couples could keep all of their federal rights and protections that they received when they got married if they move to a state that does not allow same-sex marriages. All states would have to recognize their federal rights equally.
Ultimately same-sex married couples would never be stripped of their federal rights at any point during their marriage no matter if they moved and became a resident of another state regardless if that state does or does not allow the legal enactment of same-sex marriage.
However, states which do not allow same-sex marriage are not required to celebrate a marriage between two persons of the same-sex.
“From social security benefits to veteran’s benefits, DOMA continues to harm families across the country,” said David Stacy Government Affairs Director of the Human Rights Campaign.
And while the fight in Washington continues to remove DOMA, here in Virginia, the state’s own nullified ban is waiting to be pulled from the books as well.
Delegate Marcus B. Simon (VA-53) has thrown his support in the fight for equal rights and was asked by Governor McAuliffe to carry HB1600, a bill which would modernize the definitions of family components in Virginia to be gender neutral.
Simon also authored HB 1288 which would remove the language of the ban from the state’s code.
“Virginia can’t build a 21st century brand and economy as long as we continue to have a 19th century legal scheme regarding marriage and families,” said Simon in a statement. about his equality legislation for the 2015 session, “As an elected official, it is my duty to uphold the rights of all citizens in the Commonwealth. I consider the fight for equal rights to be an integral part of this.”
Simon is not alone, he’s among 11 patrons on HB 1600, and a senate version of HB 1288, SB 682, authored by Virginia’s only openly gay Senator Adam Ebbin, similarly aims to remove the codified language from the VA constitution.
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