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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sen. Tom Udall Announces He Will Co-Sponsor Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

Thank you U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)! There's exciting news this morning on the fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples. New Mexico's Junior Senator Tom Udall released a video today (above, transcript below) announcing he will sign on as a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 (S. 598), which would effectively repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed during the Clinton administration.

The repeal legislation, originally sponsored by Sen. Diane Feinstein, would stop the federal government from refusing to recognize same-sex marriages that are performed legally in the states that allow it. In essence, it would return the governance of civil marriage to the states, where it has historically been regulated. Sen. Udall becomes the 23rd Senator to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill (see list).

In his statement today, Sen. Udall stresses he believes the states should have jurisdiction over marriage, and that, according to the U.S. constitution, "the federal government ought to respect it. If a state allows same-sex marriage, then the federal government must also recognize those marriages as valid. To do otherwise would be unconstitutional."

Sen. Udall also discusses the essential unfairness of the DOMA, noting that the current law means that same-sex couples married in states that permit it have "entered into a valid legal contract that the federal government doesn't recognize. It means they're ineligible for many federal rights like Social Security survivors and spousal benefits, the right to care for a spouse, file joint tax returns, or get benefits at work for federal employees."

"The federal government isn't respecting the decisions of these states and that's unconstitutional," Sen. Udall states.

Sen. Udall explains that he's cosponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act because it would "guarantee that legally entered same-sex marriages are recognized by the federal government and that they come with the same federal benefits that all other married couples receive."

"This legislation is fair and in accordance with the Constitution and I'm proud to co-sponsor it," Sen. Udall concludes.

And we're proud to have Sen. Udall representing us in the U.S. Senate!

Sen. Udall's decision comes after the Democracy for New Mexico blog joined with the Courage Campaign and ProgressNow New Mexico in a campaign to garner support urging both of New Mexico's Senators to co-sponsor the repeal legislation. More than 1,000 of you signed a petition asking that they support the bill that was delivered to the offices of Senators Udall and Jeff Bingaman on May 2 by renowned LGBT rights activist Cleve Jones and same-sex couple Noreen Richards and Bernadette Koh (see video). Many of those signing the petition included very moving and passionate statements of support for equality for same-sex couples and the entire LGBT community. You can read them here.

Thanks to every single one of you who signed the petition. The Courage Campaign is continuing their campaign to get co-sponsors for the DOMA repeal bill from every state. We hope you'll join us in supporting their important effort! If one person does not have his or her full civil rights, nobody does.

Full Transcript of Video:

Hi, I’m Tom Udall.

I've long believed that for issues relating to marriage, decisions need to happen at the state-level. And if the states have that responsibility, then the federal government ought to respect it.

If a state allows same-sex marriage, then the federal government must also recognize those marriages as valid. To do otherwise would be unconstitutional.

In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA. This law prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. It also let states refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

In the fifteen years since then, same-sex marriages have become legal in five states and the District of Columbia.

So what does that mean for same-sex couples who get married in these states?

It means they've entered into a valid legal contract that the federal government doesn't recognize.

It means they're ineligible for many federal rights like Social Security survivors and spousal benefits, the right to care for a spouse, file joint tax returns, or get benefits at work for federal employees.

The federal government isn't respecting the decisions of these states and that's unconstitutional.

That's why I'm co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act. It would repeal DOMA and guarantee that legally entered same-sex marriages are recognized by the federal government and that they come with the same federal benefits that all other married couples receive.

This legislation is fair and in accordance with the Constitution and I'm proud to co-sponsor it.

May 17, 2011 at 11:42 AM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink

Comments

I just want to say Senator Udall you are a good man. I have supported you when you were Atty General and all the way to the Senate. you make me proud to be a democrat. Thank you for signing this. It is important and it insures that everyone has rights.

Posted by: Stephanie DuBois | May 17, 2011 11:49:57 AM

Thanks, Senator Udall!

Posted by: Stephen Jones | May 17, 2011 12:02:12 PM

Wonderful! Thank you Senator Udall! Now how about Sen. Bingaman?

Posted by: Old Dem | May 17, 2011 6:03:17 PM

Call me cynical, but this is almost a non-starter in the current 112th congress. It could have been possible in the 111th, and I'm sure pelosi passed a repeal. I just feel like the Senate is so timid and tepid in everything they do. Senators only take a stand once they know they won't have to face a vote on the matter. Not that this isn't a welcome announcement, just about 6 months too late.

Posted by: newnewmexican | May 17, 2011 6:37:04 PM

This is all part of the persuasion campaign to influence other politicians to take a strong, clear stand, including our cowardly president. It was Obama who put out the word in the last congress that he didn't want to push DOMA repeal. He wants it both ways as he does with most issues.

At this point, publicly supporting marriage equality is still very important and meaningful and I am very pleased that Sen. Udall has done so. But where is Bingaman?

Also important to pressure every candidate to take a public stand.

Posted by: Berans | May 17, 2011 7:45:37 PM

Thank you for standing up for all Americans and for leading on the right side of history. Thank you.

Posted by: Phil | May 23, 2011 2:44:25 PM