The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), filed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, would completely repeal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). The Supreme Court decisions were a big step in that direction, but not complete.
From The New Civil Rights Movement, Jean Ann Esselink writes:
(RMA) … would declare all married couples, in all 50 states, and of any gender composition, equal rights and equal benefits and equal protections, under federal law. Senator Feinstein introduced the same bill in March of 2011. Two years ago, the bill had 17 Senate co-sponsors. This incarnation, it has 40.
In the House, Rep. Nadler
… filed the RMA with the support of 160 co-sponsors, including at least 2 Republicans, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Richard Hanna (R-NY). Passage of the RMA through the House is, as usual, made difficult by the Tea Party Caucus who are not yet ready to abandon DOMA.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement regarding the reintroduction of RMA: (emphasis added)
RMA would fully remove DOMA from the books and establish a clear rule for the federal government that all married same-sex couples – regardless of what state they currently live in – have access to equal rights, benefits, and protections under federal law. …
Federal agencies can and must change their policies, regulations, or practices to ensure same-sex couples – regardless of where they live – have access to the federal benefits and protections they deserve. However, the Respect for Marriage Act would, in one action, create a single, government-wide rule that lawfully married same-sex couples living in states where their marriage is not recognized can equally access all federal benefits and protections.
How long it will take for all states to recognize marriages of same-sex couples is an unknown. RMA would insure that federal recognition, and many but probably not all (because of the way states differ in their requirements) federal benefits, would be provided, regardless of any particular state’s position.
The Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598 and H.R. 1116), via Thomas.Gov
Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 – Amends the Defense of Marriage Act to repeal a provision that prohibited a state, territory, possession, or Indian tribe from being required to recognize any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a same sex marriage.
Amends the federal rules of construction added by such Act concerning the definitions of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ to provide that, for purposes of any federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the state where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any state, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a state. Removes the definition of ‘spouse’ (currently, a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife).
At The New Civil Rights Movement, Esselink adds this important point:
After the Supreme Court decision, there should be a vote. Every senator and every congressman should be forced to answer this question on the record, for the history books: Are you for equality? Or are you not?
Much more to come, at and from federal, state and local levels, as the work toward full equality will continue.