Frank Will Not Support DOMA Repeal
A Congressman from New York plans to sponsor a bill to undo one of the most damaging federal laws to gay and lesbian families, the 1996 "Defense of Marriage" Act, which legally consigns same-sex couples to strangers status even if they are married in one of the six states where full marriage equality is legal.
DOMA was passed as the first state to contemplate marriage equality, Hawaii, was making headlines in 1996, and spurring a panic that if marriage equality were to become legal in any one of the 50 states, the rest would be compelled to honor such marriages granted there under the U.S. Constitution’s "full faith and credit" clause.
But the measure also denies gay and lesbian families any recognition from the federal government, declaring that only heterosexual couples will be recognized as being married by federal law.
That means that married gays and lesbians do not have access to a plethora of rights at the federal level--taxes, inheritance, pensions--even if they are otherwise married at the state level.
The only way to reverse this is to repeal DOMA, which is what New York Congressman Jerry Nadler intends to do, according to a Sept. 11 article at the Washington Blade.
Two of the three openly gay members of the House of Representatives, Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, are on board with Nadler, but a surprising omission in support for the measure of Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who says that there are too many other pieces of legislation to try and get passed.
The Blade quoted Frank as saying, "It’s not anything that’s achievable in the near term."
Added Frank, "I think getting ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of [the military ban on openly gay troops] ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress."
Frank identified one of the bill’s aims, which would be to allow gay and lesbian families to be equally protected as they travel across state lines. The current patchwork of laws can see families’ rights fluctuate from full marriage to virtually no legal protections as they motor cross-country, say, on a family vacation. That makes trips to other states particularly worrisome and problematic for same-sex marrieds, and especially for gay and lesbian parents, who might have cause to worry that if the kids get hurt or take ill, they might have few or no legal rights to see them in the hospital or make medical decisions.
But that provision could rouse political Sturm und Drang, Frank noted, by suggesting that marriage rights could be "exported" from family-friendly states to other, less equality-minded, states.
The Blade quoted Nadler as scoffing at Frank’s reservations, saying, "Mr. Frank knows better than anyone that our opponents will falsely claim that any DOMA repeal bill ’exports marriage’ in an effort to generate fear and misunderstanding.