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American Bar Association

ABA Supports Legislation Authorizing US Recognition of State-Sanctioned Same-Sex Marriages

Posted Nov 2, 2011 10:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The American Bar Association is supporting repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denies federal benefits for same-sex couples married under state laws.

Thomas Susman, director of the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office, outlined the association’s position in a letter (PDF) to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Susman’s letter says the ABA supports legislation called the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals DOMA and makes clear that state-sanctioned gay marriages must be recognized by the federal government.

“After many years of legal confusion and complications created by DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would provide a much-needed level of clarity that would allow lawyers to better serve their clients and communities, Susman writes.

“For example, because of DOMA, same-sex married couples seeking divorce cannot obtain qualified domestic relations orders that allow courts to divide retirement accounts without federal tax penalty to either party. As a result, DOMA ties the hands of judges and family attorneys who have the difficult task of dividing marital property. In addition, general counsels for businesses must advise their clients on the numerous and unique federal tax pitfalls, as well as administrative burdens, that DOMA presents to businesses that provide spousal employment benefits to their gay and lesbian employees.”

In February, President Obama announced he has concluded that DOMA is unconstitutional and his administration will no longer defend it in court.

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