Hi all, I wrote to one of my U. S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein, in support of her Respect for Marriage Act. Here’s her email reply and her record of introducing the bill in the Senate in March.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message
Dear Ms. Rickard:
Thank you for your letter sharing your thoughts and support for same-sex marriage and the “Respect for Marriage Act.” I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to share my views.
My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should respect that. I firmly believe that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should not be tolerated. As you may be aware, on March 16, 2011, I introduced the “Respect for Marriage Act” (S. 598) to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which says that the Federal government will only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and was one of 14 senators who voted against it. It was the wrong law then, it is the wrong law now, and is should be repealed.
The “Respect for Marriage Act” would repeal DOMA permanently and completely. It would ensure that legally married same-sex couples receive the same rights and benefits that other married couples do. For example, repealing DOMA would allow legally married same-sex couples to file joint Federal tax returns; receive Federal employee health insurance benefits for their spouses; receive surviving spouse benefits under Social Security, Medicaid, and other Federal programs; and receive protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act, allowing them to take unpaid leave to care for a spouse who has fallen seriously ill. These are important benefits that all married couples should have the right to enjoy. As you may be aware, the Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and is under review in other Federal courts as well.
I appreciate knowing your views on this important issue. Today, the “Respect for Marriage Act” has 27 cosponsors in the Senate. We will work to add more and ultimately to pass this bill. It will be a long road, but it is the right thing to do. In case it is of interest to you, I have enclosed a statement that I gave on the floor of the Senate on March 16, 2011 supporting passage of the “Respect for Marriage Act.”
Thank you again for contacting me. I look forward to working together to repeal DOMA once and for all. I invite you to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841 should you have any further comments or questions.
Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein
Statement upon Introduction of the “The Respect for Marriage Act of 2011″
March 16, 2011
Mr. President, I am very pleased to introduce today a bill to strike the law commonly known as DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.
I want to thank my cosponsors – Senators Leahy, Gillibrand, Kerry, Boxer, Coons, Wyden, Lautenberg, Blumenthal, Merkley, Durbin, Franken, Schumer, Murray, Whitehouse, Shaheen, Udall of Colorado, Inouye, and Akaka – for working with me on this important bill.
Today, there are between tens of thousands of legally married same-sex couples in the United States, and more than 18,000 in my State of California alone.
These couples live their lives like all married people. They share financial expenses, they raise children together, and they care for each other in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death do they part.
But here’s the rub:
Right now, because of DOMA, these couples cannot take advantage of federal protections available to every other married couple in this country.
For example, because of DOMA, these couples cannot:
o File joint Federal income taxes and claim certain deductions;
o Receive spousal benefits under Social Security;
o Take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act when a loved one falls seriously ill;
o Obtain the protections of the estate tax when one spouse passes and wants to leave his or her possessions to another.
This has a very real impact. Let me tell you, for example, the stories of a married couple in California.
Jeanne Rizzo and Pali Cooper of Tiburon, California, have been in a committed relationship for more than two decades. In 2008, they were married in California before their family and friends.
They have lived in the same house, shared expenses, and raised their son, Christopher, together. The Defense of Marriage Act, however, means that they cannot enjoy the simple conveniences of filing joint tax returns as a married couple or obtaining continuing health coverage under COBRA.
They have also told me the story of re-entering the United States at the end of their honeymoon in 2008. They approached a customs agent together but were told that they could not go through the line as a family. When they said that they were legally married, a customs agent reportedly responded with a curt phrase to the effect of: “Not to the United States you’re not.”
Put simply, under DOMA, the Federal government does not treat people equally or fairly.
Last year, a Federal District Court declared the law unconstitutional; the Obama Administration has concluded that the law violates fundamental constitutional guarantees of equal protection; and even former President Clinton, who signed the law in 1996, now supports its repeal.
The “Respect for Marriage Act” would right DOMA’s wrong.
It would strike DOMA in its entirety. And it would ensure that the Federal protections afforded to a married couple remain stable and predictable no matter where a couple lives, works, or travels.
In my lifetime, I have seen the happiness, stability, and comfort that marriage brings. When two people love each other and decide to enter this solemn commitment, I believe that is a very positive thing.
I urge my colleagues to support the “Respect for Marriage Act” to repeal DOMA and call on our Federal Government to honor the legal, valid marriages of all Americans.
I ask that the full text of my remarks be submitted for the record. I thank the Chair. I yield the floor.
United States Senator
Thanks, Senator Feinstein. We can all write or call her and thank her. We can all write or call her co-sponsors and thank them. We can all write or call our own Senators to urge their support to move this bill along and help all of us.
Remember, you can follow me on twitter @tornapartbook