In-Depth: An article run by CNN found that this legislation would negate the marriages of same-sex couples who were married
in a state that allows same-sex marriage, but reside in a state where
those marriages are illegal. They would also, under this bill become ineligible for the federal benefits that they otherwise enjoy.
Under current law, federal agencies use a “state of celebration” rule rather than a “state of residence” rule when interpreting U.S. v. Windsor to give couples their federal benefits — meaning that married same-sex couples have their marriages recognized wherever they live so long as they
were married in a state that permits same-sex marriage.
A nearly identical version of the State Marriage Defense Act was introduced in February 2014, but it failed to receive a vote in the Senate before the conclusion of the 113th Congress.
Of Note: This legislation has its roots in the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in the case U.S. v. Windsor — the official end to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that had previously allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states.
A 5-4 majority in the Court
ruled that the federal government was prevented from treating
state-sanctioned heterosexual marriages as different from
state-sanctioned same-sex marriages because the differentiation
“demean[ed] the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” The majority opinion further stated that:
“the federal statute [DOMA] is invalid, for no legitimate purpose
overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the
State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and
There are competing views of this majority’s opinion:
one which believes it to be an affirmation of federalism and that “the
State used its historic and essential authority to define the marital
relation”, and another that believes DOMA “violate[d] basic due process
and equal protection principles.”
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user gdominici)