For Immediate Release - September 25, 2009

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley Sends Letter to Congress Supporting the Respect for Marriage Act

If Passed, Legislation Would Repeal DOMA

BOSTON - Today, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley sent a letter to members of Congress expressing her strong support for HB 3567, the Respect for Marriage Act, which seeks to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The legislation, which is sponsored by Congressmen Jerrold Nadler of New York and has 91 co-sponsors, seeks to fully repeal all three sections of DOMA, including Section 3 which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Coakley's Office in July 2009. The legislation would extend federal rights and benefits to married same-sex couples in areas where marital status is used to determine eligibility for such rights and benefits. Although the bill seeks to fully repeal DOMA, it would not require states that do not recognize same-sex marriages to recognize marriages performed in other states for purposes of state benefits.

"I applaud the legislative efforts to take direct action to repeal DOMA and fully support this bill because it addresses the failings of the law head-on," said Attorney General Coakley "DOMA is an unconstitutional, unprecedented, discriminatory and damaging law that does great harm to families by denying them access to critical rights and protections and important economic safety nets."

The Attorney General's lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"). The law, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, unfairly excludes more than 16,000 Massachusetts married same-sex couples and their families from critically important rights and protections based on marital status. The complaint alleges that DOMA, which affects more than 1,100 federal statutory provisions, violates the United States Constitution by interfering with the Commonwealth's sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents. The complaint also alleges that DOMA exceeds Congress's authority under the Spending Clause because Congress does not have a valid reason for requiring Massachusetts to treat married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples.

Massachusetts' lawsuit is the first and only lawsuit filed by a state challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. At the time of filing, Attorney General Coakley called DOMA a discriminatory law that affects same-sex couples "in very real and very negative ways" and said that "the time has come for this injustice to end."

View PDF of the Attorney General's Letter to Congress:

The Attorney General's lawsuit is currently pending in United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts , as is a separate but related lawsuit filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders on behalf of a group of Massachusetts married same-sex couples and widowers.