Partial Repeal of DOMA at Hand?

The Advocate is reporting that there’s a move afoot in Congress to repeal parts of DOMA – the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-gender marriages.

Legislative aides familiar with the discussions say a handful of congressional leaders have been hashing out the details of the legislation, which would accomplish two goals: repeal section 3 of DOMA as it relates to the federal government’s ability to confer some 1,100 federal benefits on same-sex partners; and provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.

The most immediate benefits of passing such a bill would go to legally married gay couples — those who have married or will marry in Connecticut or Massachusetts, those who married in California while it was legal (pending the state supreme court decision over the validity of those marriages), and those soon to marry in Iowa and Vermont. Same-sex couples in New York, which recognizes legal marriages performed outside of the state, would also be among the first beneficiaries.

This would be a huge step forward, especially for those who are already legally married in the four states that have legalized same-gender marriage.

But, the most problematic part would remain:

By all accounts, the bill will not disrupt section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the ability to determine what type of unions they deem legal. “It still protects federalism — states are still able to make their own decision about what state benefits to offer,” Anders added.

That means that while married gays and lesbians could get federal benefits, states would still be able to deny same-gender marriages. It still may take a Supreme Court order in the vein of Loving v. Virginia to have same-gender marriage recognized in every state, no matter where it was performed – but this is still and encouraging movement from Congress.