Senator Coons opens historic hearing, challenges lawmakers to repeal DOMATop Highlights, Breaking News Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Senator Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) took the Senate floor today in what promises to be a historic hearing on DOMA repeal, urging his colleagues to support the Respect for Marriage Act and instate equal benefits for same-sex couples nationwide.
Coons, an original co-sponsor of the landmark anti-discrimination act, delivered an opening statement to gathered legislators and swore in four key witnesses after an introduction by Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vermont). The witnesses include HRC President Joe Solmonese, Freedom to Marry Founder and Executive Director Evan Wolfson, Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel David Austin R. Nimocks and Ethics and Public Policy Center President Edward Whelan.
In his opening remarks, Coons said that he sees “equality for all” as a comprehensive term: “I don’t see what business it is of our federal government to reach into Americans’ hearts and judge them for whom they love,” he explained.
“I’m tired of seeing kids grow up in a country where their government tells them discrimination is ok,” Coons continued. He went on to say that, in his view, DOMA “simply encourages discrimination” – and to encourage his colleagues to join the Obama Administration and the American majority in supporting an end to the Defense of Marriage Act.
Read Coons’ full statement below:
“Thank you, Chairman Leahy, and thank you to you and Senator Feinstein for your long and determined work on repealing DOMA. Thank you to the members of our panel today who’ve shared with us searing personal stories of their experiences as veterans, teachers, attorneys. They represent, I know, thousands of our constituents, our colleagues, our classmates, our friends, who have gone through similar suffering, loss, mistreatment through DOMA.
The purpose of today’s hearing is to look at S.598 and to consider the impact DOMA has had on legally-married couples who have been denied access to all sorts of different federal programs, benefits, rights and privileges, and – as Ms. Murray mentioned – they are like waves on a beach that just drive away the possibility of equality, even to those legally recognized couples.
To me, this hearing is fundamentally about equality and whether or not we as a nation think it’s ok to deny some American citizens the same rights and privileges afforded other citizens? Do we really think it is ok for our federal government to say “we simply don’t like who you love?” My question here is how we can have an answer that is anything other than, emphatically, no.
Equality for all is supposed to mean, in my view, equality for all, and I don’t see what business is it of our federal government to reach into Americans’ hearts and judge them for whom they love? Particularly, when their states have empowered them to marry.
I am tired of it being the law of this land that it’s ok for the government to discriminate against Americans solely based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. I’m tired of seeing kids grow up in a country where their government tells them discrimination is ok, and I think it is no wonder that we continue to see kids being bullied in school and see so many LGBT children take their own lives because they’ve given up hope, because, in my view, because this law simply encourages discrimination.
We have bigger problems in this country than going out of our way to continue to discriminate against and deny rights to Americans.
We’ve heard here today and some of these witnesses have, I think, movingly testified about how same-sex marriage is at real harm from DOMA. In my view, others have testified here and elsewhere about how, somehow, same-sex marriage threatens or hurts heterosexual marriage. I don’t know about my colleagues, but my wedding ring and my marriage didn’t magically dissolve or disappear just because New York passed a same-sex marriage bill last month.
In my view, S.598 is about restoring rights —it’s not about taking them away. It’s about righting these wrongs and moving on.
I am a person of faith. My family and I worship regularly, and I am raising children in what might be considered a traditional marriage, but I don’t think that my faith, which informs my politics, empowers me to have a monopoly on the interpretation of the will of God. In my view, it is expressly not appropriate for the federal government to discriminate against couples based on who they love.
So, in my view, the Defense of Marriage Act, is just wrong. It’s wrong and needs to be repealed, and I’m grateful to the Chairman and to the witnesses before us for having laid out in clear, compelling ways how DOMA has harmed them directly.”
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