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Democrats Take First Step Towards Federal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage

November 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For the first time ever, a congressional committee has voted to require the federal government and all states to recognize same-sex marriages. Yesterday, on a party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Respect for Marriage Act, which states that, "for the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.”

The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, before any state allowed same-sex marriages. DOMA defined marriage, for federal purposes, as “between one man and one women,” and declared that states could not be forced to recognize marriages from from other states that do not comply with that definition. The law has a negative economic impact on same-sex married couples by denying them the ability to file their taxes jointly and take deductions that heterosexual couples are eligible for.

It’s unclear at this point whether the bill will be given a vote in the full Senate this session. Even if it does get a vote, it would almost certainly fall short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster.

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