Democrats launch Respect for Marriage Act to repeal US federal ban on gay marriage

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Democrats in the both the House of Representatives and the Senate will launch bills to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same sex marriage.

The bill follows the decision by the Obama administration not to defend legal cases that dispute the constitutional validity of the law.

The bills are both titled the Respect for Marriage Act. There have been attempts to overturn the ban with bills of the same name since 2009.

Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democrat New York senator, told the Washington Wire that the law is an obstacle to marriage equality.

“All loving couples should be able to enjoy the benefits of marriage,” she said. “It’s a question of equality and justice.”

Eighty-one-year-old LGBT rights activist Edith Windsor used a press conference to highlight the unfairness of the federal ban on gay marriage.

“My late spouse, Thea Spyer, and I lived together and loved each other for more than four decades. Because of DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act], I was forced to pay $363,000 in federal estate tax that I would not have had to pay had I been married to a man,” she said.

Passing legislation to officially repeal the ban on marriage will likely prove difficult with a Republican dominated House of Representatives.

Last week, a five-member panel appointed by House Speaker John Boehner voted 3-2 on party lines to defend the law.

This means that cases brought against the government relating to the ban on gay marriage will be defended by counsel appointed by the Republican-dominated House, effectively overruling president Obama’s decision not to defend the law.

“The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally,” the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a statement.

“This action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”