06.26.13

Leahy Applauds DOMA Decision, Vows To Continue Fight For Equality For All Americans

Announces That In Light Of SCOTUS Decision, He Will Not Seek Vote On Anti-Discrimination Amendment

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, June 26, 2012) –Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hailed the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, and he vowed to continue working to ensure the nation’s laws provide equal protection for all citizens.

“Today, thousands of gay and lesbian individuals and families across the country have had their rights vindicated by the Supreme Court’s decision,” Leahy said, adding that  “I share the joy of millions of American families that they will be treated fairly by their Federal government.” 

“Despite today’s historic ruling there are still improvements needed to our Federal laws to ensure that all families are protected. I will continue to work with Senator Feinstein on legislative fixes still needed in the wake of this historic decision.”  Leahy has been a leading cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill authored by Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would have repealed DOMA and ensured that all married couples are treated equally under Federal law. While the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday means that all lawfully married couples will be recognized under Federal law, uncertainty remains as to statutory and regulatory provisions beyond DOMA that treat same-sex married couples differently.  The Respect for Marriage Act would address this ambiguity. 

In light of Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, Leahy also said that he would not seek a floor vote for his anti-discrimination amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently pending on the Senate floor.  Leahy has championed legislation to provide equal protection to lawfully married bi-national same sex couples  -- the same protection that other spouses receive under existing immigration law.  Earlier this month he filed such an amendment to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.  Leahy also raised the issue during the Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the immigration bill last month, but ultimately withdrew his proposal when Republicans declared that they would remove their support for the legislation if his amendment was added.

With the Supreme Court’s decision today, it appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and binational couples can now be united under the law,” Leahy said.  “As a result of this welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment.”

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 Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
June 26, 2013

Today, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and helped this Nation take a major step toward full equality.  The 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.  I share the joy of those families who had their rights vindicated today, including all the legally married couples in my home state of Vermont.

In August, my wife Marcelle and I will celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary.  Our marriage is so fundamental to our lives that it is difficult for me to imagine how it would feel to have the Government refuse to acknowledge it.  Today, thousands of gay and lesbian individuals and families across the country have had their rights vindicated by the Supreme Court’s decision.  Despite today’s historic ruling there are still injustices in our Federal laws that discriminate against these married couples.  I will continue to work with Senator Feinstein on legislative fixes to protect all families.

As we continue to fight for equality and against discrimination in our Nation’s laws, I am hopeful today’s ruling will have addressed a serious injustice.  By striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court has pronounced that our Federal laws cannot discriminate against individuals based on who they love.  I believe this should extend to our immigration laws as well.  Last month I was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions in my 38 years as a Senator when I withdrew my amendment that would have provided equality in our immigration laws by ensuring that all Americans may sponsor their spouse for citizenship.  It was one of the most disappointing moments in my 38 years in the Senate, but I took Republicans at their word that they would abandon their own efforts to reform the Nation’s immigration laws if my amendment had been adopted.  With the Supreme Court’s decision today, however, it appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and binational couples and their families can now be united under the law.  As a result of this welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment.  

Today’s decision should be seen as a victory for all those who support justice, equality, and family values.  There is still important work to be done so that all families are protected under our Federal laws.  Until we fully achieve the motto engraved in Vermont marble above the Supreme Court building that declares “Equal justice under the law,” I will continue to fight for the equal treatment of all Americans.

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