The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a Bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This Bill has little to no chance of passing either the House or the Senate, at least in the current Congress. However it is interesting to think of some of the potential impacts such a repeal would have on the rights and benefits of thousands of same sex couples around the country.
As most people know, one of the central pillars of DOMA is the definition of marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. As intended, this portion of DOMA prevents couples of the same sex from marrying, or at least having their marriages recognized at the federal level. This causes same sex couples to lose out on the employment benefits enjoyed by married couples nationwide. Same sex couples are not eligible for many of the health, pension, and other spousal benefits guaranteed to the spouses of heterosexual federal workers. As David Borer, the General Counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees, recently stated in a news article, “By denying married, same-sex couples access to the same federal benefits that heterosexual married couples receive, DOMA violates the constitutional principles upon which this country was founded.”
Besides societal impact, a repeal of DOMA would also potentially enable the spouses of federal workers to receive the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. Same sex couples would be eligible for provisions under the Family Medical Leave Act, receive Health and Pension benefits under their spouses plans, and would have many other additional benefits. As proponents of workers rights, many National Labor Unions have come out in support of the DOMA repeal. For more information about how the Labor Unions are viewing the possible repeal of DOMA, check out this article at marketwatch.com.
While it is unlikely that this current effort to repeal DOMA will bear fruit, those in the Labor movement must continue to support such endeavors. As seen, the potential impact for workers nationwide is tremendous.