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The Defense of Marriage Act

July 22nd, 2011

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is the current law at the Federal level which governs over the institution of marriage.

Full Legal Text of the Defense of Marriage Act:


In 1996, under the Clinton administration, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. In section III, this act explicitly defines marriage as a legal bond limited to one man and one woman and does not require the Federal government to recognize civil unions of other configurations that were granted by state law. The act was passed in response to a state law in Hawaii that specified that same-sex marriages were legal.

United States Constitution, Marriage, Law

Constitution of the United States

The Defense of Marriage Act also limited same sex couples from being allowed the same legal rights as heterosexual, monogamous couples.
In 2010, the Defense of Marriage Act was put to the test when Judge Tauro, a district judge in the Court of Massachusetts ruled that the failure to confer the same legal rights to same sex couples as to heterosexual couples was unconstitutional. This opened the door for further debate about the constitutionality of DOMA, both on the state and federal levels. Currently, the Obama administration views the act as unconstitutional because it violates the 10th amendment.

Important Language in DOMA:

Section 2 of DOMA:  “No State, territory or possession of the United States or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship” – Allowing states complete control over the recognition of marriage.

Section 3 of DOMA:  `In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’. – Controversial Language which excludes same sex couples from the institution of marriage.

Current Status:

The Obama Administration does view DOMA as unconstitutional and is refusing to uphold the law. This means the Department of Justice has stopped defending it. Those in support of banning gay marriage, the official sponsor being Vicky Hartzler, a Republican of Missouri, have introduced a bill which condemns the Obama administration’s actions which is bill is currently in the House judiciary committee.

Vote Information:

House of Representatives: 342 Yeas, 67 Nays, Senate vote Roll Call for DOMA

United States Senate: 14 Yeas, 85 Nays, House vote Roll Call for DOMA

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