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July 20, 2011 Print

Senate Hearing Focuses on Repealing Marriage Law

by Carrie Gordon Earll

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony today on a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  DOMA defines marriage as one man and one woman for the purpose of federal law and acknowledges that states have the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Democrats on the committee convened the hearing entitled, “The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families,” to build a case for the repeal effort.

The White House formally announced on Tuesday that President Obama supports the repeal.

Although the witness panels were stacked in opposition to DOMA, a few supporters of marriage were able to testify. Focus on the Family Senior Vice President Tom Minnery faced hostile senators on the committee.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., attempted to corner Minnery with a narrow question and would not allow him to complete his answer – finally insisting on either a “Yes” or “No.”

Leahy: “If you have parents legally married under the laws of the state.  One set of parents are entitled to certain financial benefits for their children.  The other set of parents are denied those same financial benefits for their children.  Are not those children – at least in that aspect of finances – children of the second family, are they not at a disadvantage, yes or no?”

Minnery: “That would be “Yes,” as you have asked the question narrowly, senator.”

Leahy: “Yes, and I was asking narrowly.”

Later, Minnery said that if he had been allowed to answer fully, he would have told the committee: “There are any number of domestic situations that put children at a relative financial advantage.  Those circumstances should not be manipulated to redefine marriage.”

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., focused on Minnery’s written testimony, targeting one of more than 60 academic citations concerning the positive impact when children have a married mother and father in the home.  Franken said he interprets one study’s definition of “nuclear family” as one that would include same-sex married couples with children.

Minnery replied after the hearing, “A careful reading of the study gives no indication that same-sex couples were included; it’s simply silent on the subject.  Based on the actual text of the report, a realistic assessment is that silence means absence.  This study is one small part the mountain of solid data that demonstrates kids do best with a married mother and father.”

Read Tom Minnery’s prepared testimony.

Watch the hearing online.

Tom Minnery’s testimony is found at approximately 62:00-67:30.

Read Austin Nimock’s prepared testimony in favor of keeping DOMA.

Read Ed Whelan’s prepared testimony in favor of keeping DOMA.

Read S. 598, which is intended to repeal DOMA.