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DOMA repeal passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar voted in a Senate committee hearing Thursday to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Both testified that DOMA hurts same-sex couples who are legally married in several states. Franken told his colleagues that repealing the law would have not consequences for heterosexual couples, and that allowing same-sex marriage won’t make anyone gay.

The repeal effort passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 10-8. It still needs to pass a full vote on the Senate floor and faces opposition in the Republican-controlled House, although Minnesota Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz are supporters of the House version.

Klobuchar said she was “struck” by the number of people who testified against DOMA in hearings last summer.

“They were discriminated against and unfairly harmed,” Klobuchar said. “They were denied protections like the ability to take off work to care for a dying partner and denied survivor benefits when a partner died.”

Klobuchar also said the issue wasn’t about religion.

“Whatever we vote on today and whatever happens today, the bill doesn’t require any church or mosque or synagogue to perform same-sex marriage. As the debate on this continues, we cannot lose sight of that,” she said.

Franken took issue with a statement by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who argued that marriage has always been defined as the union of one man and one woman. Franken argued that was false.

“In many cultures, men have been able to marry many women and young girls. For centuries, women have been treated as cattle in marriage. Further, if the religious purpose for marriage is procreation, why would we sanction marriage between an 89-year-old widower and an 80-year-old widow?” Franken said. “I just think we need to be accurate when we talk about the history of marriage, the history of man and woman, the history of our institutions.”

Franken spoke about couples in Minnesota who have been harmed by DOMA including a young couple who met in divinity school and married in Connecticut who have to lie on their federal tax forms and say they are single.

He talked about another Minnesota couple that married in Iowa, John and Jeff Westerfield. John was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“Jeff won’t have the federal right to take a medical leave. If John passes, Jeff won’t see a dime from Social Security,” said Franken. “DOMA hurts people who love each other. DOMA hurts people who want to adopt kids and raise them and take care of them. DOMA hurts families.

“We need to pass this bill. Straight people aren’t suddenly going to become gay, Straight people aren’t going to stop getting married. We are going to be just fine. Really.”

The bill, dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act, passed the committee on a party-line vote.

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