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Defense of Marriage Act



Updated March 20, 2007
President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- HR 3396 or Public Law No. 104-199 -- on 21 September 2000. It defines marriage as an act between heterosexuals and frees one state from being required to honor the same-sex marriage conducted in another state. As of this writing, 39 states have laws based on DOMA; 18 of those are amendments to the state constitution.

HR 3396 was a fast-track bill in the House. The Judiciary Committee moved it out on 9 July and then the House passed the bill, 342-67, on 12 July; two abstained and 22 did not vote. The Senate passed the bill, 85-14, on 10 September; one did not vote.

Bill Text
Section 1 provides the title.

Section 2 amends Chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code:
    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.
Section 3 amends Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code:
    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.

2004 Election
The issue of same-sex marriage was a ballot issue in many states in 2004. In 2000, then-candidate Bush characterized this is a state's issue; in 2004, he campaigned against same-sex marriage. In that election cycle, 11 states passed constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage.

Next: The Vote
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