Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On The Supreme Court’s Decision Overturning The Defense Of Marriage Act

[The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Wednesday in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is a leading cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a legislative fix to repeal DOMA.  As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he led the panel’s consideration of the legislation and he chaired the first-ever congressional hearing examining the effects of DOMA on American families.  The Judiciary Committee’s subsequent approval of the DOMA repeal bill, in 2011, has been a catalyst in the years since then for re-examining this issue on Capitol Hill.  Leahy also joined in filing an amicus brief urging the Court to strike down DOMA.]

Today, this nation took a major step toward full equality because the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Today’s ruling confirms my belief that the Constitution protects the rights of all Americans, and that no one should suffer from discrimination based on who they love.  Edith Windsor and thousands of gay and lesbian individuals and families across the country have had their rights vindicated by the Supreme Court’s decision.  I share the joy of those families this morning, although there is still work to be done.  This ruling upholds the motto engraved in Vermont marble above the Supreme Court building that declares “Equal justice under the law.”

Section 3 of DOMA had defined marriage for purposes of federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” excluding all other lawfully married couples from all the federal responsibilities and rights of marriage.  That does not represent the values we hold as Americans.  All couples who are lawfully married under state law, including in Vermont, should be entitled to the same federal protections afforded to all other married couples.  We all deserve equal protection under the law, and the Supreme Court has upheld that vital principle.  This decision means that we no longer have a tier of second-class marriages in this nation and in the State of Vermont.  I applaud this important milestone in the continued march toward equality and pledge to work to ensure that all our laws respect the rights of every American.

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