DOMA is the shortened name for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA is a federal law that was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996, in response to the marriage equality litigation in Hawaii in which Lambda Legal was co-counsel.
Some members of Congress were worried that, if same-sex couples won the right to marry in Hawaii, the federal government and other states might have to start honoring those marriages. They passed DOMA in an effort to prevent that.
There are two main parts of the law: Section 2 of DOMA says that Congress believes other states should be able to ignore marriages lawfully entered by same-sex couples, and treat those legally-married couples as strangers to one another. Section 3 of DOMA says that the federal government does not have to recognize or honor those marriages. DOMA does not prohibit states from allowing same-sex couples to marry–it only addresses the consequences of those marriages for purposes of other states’ laws or federal laws.
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