Amnesty Activism at Work: Dump DOMA!

July 21, 2011

Amnesty International activists take part in Gay Pride in Paris

On Tuesday, Amnesty International staff delivered the signatures of Amnesty activists and supporters to the U.S. Senate urging them to repeal DOMA and end discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

DOMA – or the “Defense of Marriage Act” – is a discriminatory law that denies lawfully married same-sex couples the right to access federal protections and benefits.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) which would repeal DOMA and take an important step towards ending discrimination against same-sex couples.  Amnesty International submitted a letter of support for the Act and delivered the petitions directly to the Committee to show our support!

At the hearing members of LGBT community, human rights advocates and Members of Congress testified before the Committee to tell their personal stories and bring home the damage that DOMA inflicts on the lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

DOMA discriminates in two substantial ways. Section 2 of DOMA purports to allow states to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states; and Section 3 of the law carves all same-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, out of all federal statutes, regulations, and rulings applicable to all other married people.

As a result, DOMA denies these lawfully married couples access to over 1,100 federal benefits and protections!

The RMA, introduced by Senator Feinstein and Representative Nadler, would remedy these injustices by repealing DOMA and ensuring that all lawfully married couples—including same sex couples—are able to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law.  Amnesty International strongly supports the RMA and is joined by President Obama, who, as the White House announced on Tuesday, supports the bill.

Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy the full range of human rights without exception. The right of adults to enter into consensual marriage is enshrined in international human rights standards. As article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

The failure of the government to provide equal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples prevents many people from accessing a range of rights, such as rights to housing and social security. Additionally, this unfair treatment stigmatizes same-sex relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As Senator Coons stated during the hearing,

“It is expressly not appropriate for the federal government to discriminate against couples based on who they love . . . the Defense of Marriage Act is just wrong.”

Join us in shining a light on the need for equality and human rights for all by calling for the repeal of the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Download the 2011 Pride Kit or visit our LGBT Rights page for information and resources on how you can join us in ending discrimination against LGBT people in the United States and around the world.

Intern Stephanie Fontana contributed to this blog post.