The Respect for Marriage Act is introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives.
On September 15, Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart and married Iowa plaintiffs Jen and Dawn BarbouRoske called for the passage of a new bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives that would repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). “We applaud the bill’s sponsors for their leadership and call on all fair-minded congressional members to support this bill,” says Cathcart.
The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) — introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler, together with Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, and 88 other Members of Congress — would return the country to the longstanding earlier rule that states decide who can marry and that the federal government respects all married couples without discrimination.
At a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the bill’s introduction, Cathcart stood with the BarbouRoske family, plaintiffs in our Iowa Supreme Court marriage victory of earlier this year. The couple, together for nearly 20 years when they were married this summer, spoke about why federal respect of their marriage is important to them. “When Dawn and I do our federal tax return next year, our own government will tell us to lie and say we’re not married,” says Jen BarbouRoske. “But we are, and the government that takes the same taxes and Social Security deductions from our paychecks as from everyone else’s, should give us the same legal rights, too.”
Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project Director, Jennifer C. Pizer, worked closely for months with Congressman Nadler’s staff and colleagues from our sister LGBT organizations to craft the bill, and has authored a fact sheet to explain more about the bill and what it means for same-sex couples all over the country. From the fact sheet:
Any important bill requires lots of public education and organizing of support before Congress will pass it on to the President’s desk. Support for the Respect for Marriage Act will grow, and eventually will snowball, as we all take responsibility for explaining to people in our lives why this federal discrimination must end.
“Passage of this law in 1996 was a gratuitous slap in the face,” Cathcart says. “Now, it is all the more harmful because there are thousands of married same-sex couples in this country who endure irrational, sometimes devastating discrimination at the hands of their own government. These couples have shouldered full legal responsibility for each other, they pay full federal taxes just like everyone else, and they should receive the same respect, important benefits and protections as everyone else.”