The legislative history of DOMA

Chris Geidner over at Metro Weekly on the passage of DOMA, interviewing the players at the time from the White House, the Hill and HRC.

What hit me as most interesting about the article was remembering how initially DOMA was irrelevant.  We couldn’t even get civil unions, let alone marriage.  So there were no marriage benefits to deny us, which DOMA would do.  But then, things changed in 2004:

Richard Socarides, who continued to serve as President Clinton’s gay and lesbian liaison after DOMA’s passage, adds, ”I think what made it easier to move on was that nothing changed; the law was signed and nothing changed. What made it easier to move on is that [because] you couldn’t be married anywhere, no one was immediately affected. The fact that no one was immediately affected, that made it easier to move on.”

Wolfson agrees, to a point, saying, ”Evil and discriminatory as DOMA is, it does not prevent states from taking steps to end marriage discrimination and that’s precisely where we need to focus our efforts — and that’s, of course, where we did focus our efforts.”

It was the success of those efforts — the marriage equality case in Massachusetts in 2003 that led to same-sex marriages there in 2004 — that showed DOMA’s teeth, Socarides says: ”We only saw later, almost eight years later, only began to see the real damage of the legislation.”

As same-sex couples began marrying in Massachusetts and eventually elsewhere, federal benefits – from government employees’ spousal health insurance to Social Security survivor benefits – began being denied to partners in those marriages. As same-sex partners began to end their legal relationships, questions about the way the other states would treat the end of those relationships arose from Virginia to Texas.

In those and many more situations popping up across the country, the real impact of DOMA began to become clear to people everywhere. Its original supporters, from the lead House sponsor, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), to Daschle and Clinton, turned on the legislation: All three support repeal of the 1996 law.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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