WASHINGTON D.C., November 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a narrow vote Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would grant federal recognition to homosexual “marriages.” The bill, titled the “Respect for Marriage Act,” passed the Democrat controlled committee by a 10-8 vote, with the members of the committee voting along party lines.
The “Respect for Marriage Act” was introduced in the Senate in March by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) with the goal of repealing the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). DOMA asserts that states where homosexual “marriages” are not currently recognized are not required to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states. It also defines marriage as the “legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” for purposes of federal law.
The vote is largely symbolic as the bill is not expected to get past a Republican filibuster in the Senate, or the Republican majority in the house. Due to the unlikelihood of the bill becoming law, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) characterized the vote as “no more than a cynical political gesture to the Democrats’ base.”
Proponents of the “Respect for Marriage Act” argued today that DOMA is discriminatory towards homosexual couples because it denies them benefits reserved for married individuals, especially benefits from Social Security reserved for spouses. During the committee’s meeting, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “If you’re paying the taxes, if you’re fulfilling the obligations, you should get the same benefits as anybody else.”
President Obama echoed these sentiments in July when the White House issued a statement supporting the bill saying, “President Obama is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act…This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”
However, during the meeting today, Sen. Grassley argued that marriage should remain defined as the union of one man and one woman because such unions provide the best environment for raising children. “To me, this debate is about stable families, good environments for raising children, and religious beliefs. It’s not about discriminating against anyone.”
The “Respect for Marriage Act” has come under increasing attack this year. In February, the Justice Department announced that at the recommendation of President Obama it would no longer be defending DOMA in court, saying “the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.”
Less than a month later, though, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) announced that the House of Representatives would take up the defense of DOMA. In announcing the decision, Boehner said, “This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”