Sen. Franken Statement on Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act
Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) delivered the following statement at a Judiciary Committee hearing in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill designed to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The repeal—which Sen. Franken cosponsored—ultimately passed the committee, and will next move to consideration in the full Senate.
“I want to talk about a few Minnesotans whose families have been hurt by DOMA.
“Javen Swanson and Oby Ballinger both grew up in rural Minnesota. They attended church-affiliated colleges in Minnesota and they met when they were both attending divinity school in Connecticut. This is what Javen and Oby wrote about their wedding day: ‘On May 22, 2009, we were married in the Divinity School chapel. Surrounded by nearly 200 friends and family, in the presence of God, we made sacred vows to love and honor one another in sickness and in health, when times are good and when things get tough. […] We married for the same reasons heterosexual couples marry: To make a lifetime commitment to the one we love in the presence of our friends and family; to share the joys and sorrows that life brings; to be a family; and to be able to protect that family.’
“After divinity school, Javen and Oby came back to Minnesota. Oby is the pastor at the Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park, and Javen is going to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“But every year, when they fill out their federal tax return, Javen and Oby have to check the ‘single’ box. They have to sign that form—under penalty of perjury. Every year, DOMA forces Javen and Oby to lie under oath. Every year, Javen and Oby pay taxes to a government that says their marriage is a fiction, even though they are a married couple—in the eyes of the God that they worship, in the eyes of their friends and family, and in the eyes of the state of Connecticut.”
“John and Jeff Westerfield live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They met while working on a production of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ They’ve been together 25 years. A few years ago, John’s daughter moved in with them. And then she adopted a little boy from Ethiopia. Two years ago, John and Jeff got married in Iowa. If you saw a photo of all of them together, you’d see a big, beautiful, mixed-up happy family.
“But John is retired now. And he has multiple sclerosis. And if one day John’s M.S. gets worse, unlike all of his straight friends, Jeff won’t have the federal right to take a medical leave to take care of John. And if one day John passes away, Jeff won’t see a dime from Social Security.”
“The suffering that DOMA causes and will cause is real. And it’s cruel. DOMA hurts people who love each other and want to make a commitment to each other, for life. DOMA hurts people who want to have kids and adopt kids and raise them and take care of them. DOMA hurts people who want to save up money and retire and live the rest of their lives together with some degree of comfort. DOMA hurts families.
“Mr. Chairman, we need to pass this bill. And you know, when we do pass it, straight people aren’t suddenly going to become gay. Straight people aren’t going to stop getting married. No, we’re going to be just fine. What will happen is that millions upon millions of lesbian and gay Americans aren’t going to suffer the indignity of having their own government tell them that their marriages are no good. What will happen is that it will be easier for those people to start and protect their families.”
“I’m proud to vote for this bill. We have to pass it.”