Unhappy 14 Year Anniversary of the Defense of Marriage Act – September 21, 1996

On September 21, 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act (aka  Public Law No. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419. Its provisions are codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7 and 28 U.S.C. § 1738C)  was passed by Congress with a vote of 85–14 in the Senate[ and a vote of 342–67 in the House of Representatives, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on this day

At the time of passage, it was expected that Hawaii (and possibly other states) would soon legalize same-sex marriage, whether by legislation or judicial interpretation of either the state or federal constitution. Opponents of such recognition feared—and many proponents hoped—that the other states would then be required to recognize such marriages under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. Section 3 of the law—the part that defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman—was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court judge in July 2010

On September 15, 2009, 3 Democratic members of Congress, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jared Polis of Colorado, introduced legislation to repeal DOMA called the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill had 91 original co-sponsors in the House of Representatives  However, gay Congressman Barney Frank and John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay political appointee, did not support that effort, stating that “the backbone is not there” in Congress. Frank and Berry suggested DOMA could be overturned more quickly through lawsuits 

We can only hope that there won’t be a 15th Anniversary.


Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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