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Feinstein, Nadler Introduce Bill to Ensure Rights of All Married Couples

42 senators, 79 House members introduce bill to guarantee federal marriage rights

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. The bill would also ensure that all legally-married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law by clarifying current statues.

Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives today. A total of 79 representatives are original cosponsors of the House bill.

“Congress must repeal DOMA and ensure that all married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, and that’s what this bill will do,” said Senator Feinstein. “Only when this bill is passed will we be able to guarantee the federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage for all loving couples. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill.”

“We must finish the job begun by the Supreme Court by passing the Respect for Marriage Act,” said Representative Nadler, lead sponsor of the House bill. “The Supreme Court has ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, but Congress still must repeal the law in its entirety.”

Nadler continued: “The vast majority of Americans live in states where same-sex couples can marry and public support for marriage equality is growing stronger by the day. Repeal of DOMA is long overdue. That is why we are reintroducing the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals DOMA in its entirety and sends DOMA into the history books where it belongs. The bill provides a uniform rule for recognizing couples under federal law, ensuring that lawfully married couples will be recognized under federal law no matter where they live and guaranteeing that all families can plan for a future of mutual obligation and support with confidence.”

In June 2014, one year after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor v. United States, the Justice Department issued a report concluding that without legislation, married same-sex couples will continue to be denied critical federal benefits.

Specifically, the report concluded the government could not issue Social Security or veterans’ benefits to some married, same-sex couples because the agencies “are required by law to confer marriage-related benefits based on the law of the state in which the married couple reside or resided, preventing the extension of benefits to same-sex married couples” in certain states.

Kathy Murphy and Sara Barker illustrate the problem of denying federal benefits based on where a couple has lived. Murphy and Barker—together for more than 30 years—were legally married in Massachusetts but moved to Texas, where same-sex marriage is illegal. When cancer took Barker’s life, Murphy was denied spousal survivor’s benefits and the standard lump-sum death payment awarded by the Social Security Administration because they lived in Texas. Murphy filed suit in federal court in October 2014 and her case is pending.

The Justice Department report stated that enactment of a bill like the Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that federal benefits are awarded equally and that the administration would “work closely with Congress to ensure that veterans and elderly and disabled Americans can obtain for themselves or their spouses the essential benefits they have earned no matter where they live.”

The Senate bill has 42 original cosponsors: Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The House bill has 79 original cosponsors: Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Ruben Gallego (D-Texas), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), James R. Langevin (D-R.I.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).