Congress Evolves On Marriage


We recently marveled at the dramatic shift in public opinion in California over the past few decades. Ian Thompson notes a similar shift in Congress:

On Friday, 212 members of Congress, 172 representatives and 40 senators, filed an historic brief in support of Edie Windsor’s challenge to the discriminatory and unconstitutional so-called Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) exclusion of married same-sex couples from marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights. This amicus brief stands in dramatic contrast to the overwhelming support for DOMA when it was passed by Congress in 1996. DOMA passed the House with 342 votes (with 67 members voting no) and the Senate with 85 votes (14 members voted no). Obviously much has changed in the years since DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton, most notably the fact that gay people could not marry anywhere in the country (or world) in 1996 and today can do so in nine states as well as the District of Columbia.

And how did marriage equality affect civil marriage and divorce in the last decade as it became reality in several states and was on the front-burner of public discussion? Between 2000 and 2009, divorce rates dropped nationally from 4.1 percent to 3.4 percent. The lowest divorce rate? 2.2 percent – in the state that first legislated marriage equality, Massachusetts. This argument is essentially over as an empirical and civil matter.

(Above: President of the Senate Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy all voted in favor of DOMA in 1996. The latter just two signed the aforementioned amicus brief while Biden is now an outspoken supporter of marriage equality. Portraits taken from their respective Wiki pages.)