Passed in 1996 by the Clinton administration, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, restricts the federal definition of marriage to that between one man and one woman. Since then, a number of states have legalized gay marriage, yet under the federal law, no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage ordained by another state. Some aspects of the law have been ruled unconstitutional in state courts--and recently the Obama administration announced that though it still would enforce the law, the Department of Justice would no longer defend it in court. In response, congressional Republicans led by Speaker of the House John Boehner spent $1.5 million to defend the law themselves under the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. The Senate Democrats are now looking to repeal DOMA entirely, with the Judiciary Committee taking on the law. They passed a bill that would repeal DOMA called the Respect for Marriage Act in a 10-8 vote along party lines.
The repeal of DOMA is likely to meet many more obstacles. In a committee hearing, many Republicans rejected the comparison of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, which was illegal in some states into the 1960s, as Senate Democrats try to paint the repeal as an issue of civil rights. "Is it a violation of civil rights to say that two women who live together, share expenses, [or] two men who live together and share expenses but don't have a sexual relationship can't receive governmental benefits?" asked Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabamian Republican.
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