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DOMA Repeal Vs. DOMA Defense: Recent LGBT Bills Reveal Partisan Divide

March 15, 2011 2:11 pm ET by Equality Matters staff

Maggie Gallagher

A bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is slated to be introduced Wednesday in the U.S. House and Senate. The bill, which will be called the "Respect for Marriage Act," already has 105 original co-sponsors in the House. The Senate version of the bill will be introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and marks the first attempt by the Senate to repeal DOMA.

This bill comes just two weeks after Republican Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would take up the charge of defending section three of DOMA in court. President Obama announced last month that he believes that section - which prohibits the federal government from recognizing state-sanctioned same-sex marriages -- is unconstitutional and the Department of Justice would no longer defend it in court.

These actions, along with a flurry of other LGBT-related bills that have been introduced since the beginning of the 112th Congress, demonstrate a partisan split that continues to divide Congress on LGBT issues:

Pro-Equality Legislation

  • Equal Access To COBRA Act - Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) - would provide COBRA benefits to an LGBT Americans whose partner leaves or loses his/her job (this only applies to companies that already offer health coverage to employees with same-sex partners).
  • Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act - Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) - would require colleges and universities receiving funding for federal student aid loans to prohibit student, faculty, and staff harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Safe Schools Improvement Act - Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) - a bipartisan bill that would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt policies prohibiting bullying and harassment, including bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • Student Non-Discrimination Act - Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) - a bipartisan bill that would prohibit public elementary and secondary school from discriminating against students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was the only Republican congressperson to co-sponsor the bill. 

Anti-Equality Legislation

  • "Marriage Protection Amendment" - Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) - H.J. Res. 45 would amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman.
  • "Marriage Protection Act" - Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) - H.R. 875 would strip federal courts of the ability to hear challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA.
  • H. Con. Res. 25 - Rep. Vicky Hartzler - a concurrent resolution condemning the Justice Department's recent decision and demanding that it defends DOMA.
  • H. Res. 143 - Rep. Louie Gohmert - resolution directing the Speaker to take "any and all actions necessary" to assert the House's standing to defend DOMA in court.
  • Amendment To Slash DOJ Budget - Rep. Steve King (R-IA) - planning to propose an amendment to slash Justice Department funding by the same amount spent by the House while defending DOMA.