Congressman Joe Sestak urges speaker Pelosi to hold a vote on equal rights for gay and lesbian couples
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Congressman Joe Sestak, a member of the House Equality Caucus, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urging Congressional consideration of the Respect for Marriage Act which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA passed in 1996, excluding federal benefit for married same-sex couples.
Joe Sestak has called for a repeal of DOMA since he first ran for Congress in 2006.
The letter Congressman Sestak sent to Speaker Pelosi:
September 21, 2009
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
H-232 U.S. Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20515-6501
Dear Madam Speaker,
As a supporter of equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, I urge you to bring the Respect for Marriage Act– which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act– to the House floor for a vote.
Since its passage in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act has discriminated against LGBT Americans by excluding federal benefits from same-sex partners who have been legally married in states that recognize their marriage. As a result, married LGBT couples are not provided equal treatment under the law. Specifically, they are prevented from filing joint tax returns; receiving spousal, parental or surviving spouse benefits under social security; taking unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured partner; or receiving the same retirement benefits as heterosexual couples. Since 1996, eight states and the District of Columbia have granted same-sex couples equal access to state programs, but those couples remain excluded from the same rights under federal law.
By repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would require federal recognition of marriages that are valid under the law of the state where performed. This will ensure a uniform national policy by guaranteeing eligibility for federal protections and obligations, no matter a couple’s current state of residence. DOMA’s repeal provides certainty to families by allowing them to plan for a future of mutual obligation and support with confidence that their access to Federal responsibilities and rights will not be taken away.
The Respect for Marriage Act does not require a state to recognize a valid marriage performed by a sister state, and nothing in the Act obligates any person, religious organization, locality or state to license a marriage between two persons of the same sex. Instead, it only creates a standard federal guideline.
As you know too well– having voted against DOMA in 1996– there is strong support for repealing the Act. President Obama and other leaders in Congress have called for DOMA’s repeal. We now have the chance to act on that belief.
While commanding men and women in harm’s way during my 31 years in the Navy, we knew, because of public surveys, that a certain percentage were lesbian and gay service members. Having seen their dedication, their allegiance, and their sacrifices, how can I – or anyone- not say that these individuals deserve equal rights when they return home? Passing the Respect for Marriage Act will restore fairness to the LGBT community and ensure equal justice under law.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you on the Respect for Marriage Act and restoring equal rights to all Americans.
Member of Congress