A Quick Review of DOMA

In case you weren’t aware, last week President Obama ordered the Department of Justice to not defend the legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996.

While campaigning, Obama promised a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. Well, last year, after a failed attempt at adding a DADT repeal to a Defense Department budget as a rider, a repeal was introduced as a stand-alone bill. This passed in December of 2010.

A repeal of DOMA has been less successful.

As of June, 2009, a lawsuit was challenging DOMA in federal court. By this time, language supporting the repeal had disappeared from both Obama’s speeches and the White House website. The Justice Department was actively defending it, which brought scorn from the HRC and PFLAG.

In October, 2009, an ill-fated bill was introduced into the House that would repeal DOMA. Barney Frank, a gay rights proponent, did not support this bill because he felt it was just a bad bill. Obama remained silent on the issue.

In April, 2010, Obama ordered that any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding must allow same-sex couples visitation rights.

In June, 2010, Obama ordered all executive agencies to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees. This is above and beyond any benefits offered via the Office of Personnel Management and the State Department.

In November, 2010, control of the House of Representatives went back to the Republicans, which took a weak possibility of repealing DOMA and made it even less likely.

Finally, in February, 2011, Obama ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA. While a court striking the legislation down, and requiring all states to recognize any marriage, same or opposite sex, performed and recognized by any other state, and the federal government recognizing the same, would be nice, I can’t make any predictions. I don’t think striking down DOMA would automatically make the desired outcomes happen, but I can’t say it wouldn’t. (Does that make sense?)

So, in short, only time will tell. Let’s hope for the best.

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