Thursday, September 21, 2017

On This Day: DOMA Enacted to Prevent Gay Marriage

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted today, September 21, in 1996. DOMA was a U.S. Federal law that, prior to being ruled unconstitutional, defined marriage for Federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. 

Until Section 3 of the Act was struck down in 2013 (United States v. Windsor), DOMA, in conjunction with other statutes, had barred same-sex married couples from being recognized as "spouses" for purposes of Federal laws, effectively barring them from receiving Federal marriage benefits. Though DOMA's passage did not prevent individual states from recognizing same-sex marriage, it did impose constraints on the benefits received by all legally married same-sex couples.

Initially introduced in May 1996, DOMA passed both houses of Congress by large, veto-proof majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

In United States v. Windsor (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) struck down the act's provisions disallowing same-sex marriages to be performed under Federal jurisdiction.

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