Same-Sex Marriages: Legal Issues [November 19, 2012]   [open pdf - 426KB]

"The recognition of same-sex marriages generates debate on both the federal and state levels. Either legislatively or judicially, same-sex marriage is legal in seven states. Other states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships, which may provide similar state-level rights and/or benefits. Many states have statutes or constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman. These state-level variations raise questions about the validity of such unions outside the contracted jurisdiction and have bearing on the distribution of federal benefits. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), P.L. [Public Law] 104-199, prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows individual states to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in other states. Section 3 of DOMA requires that for purposes of federal benefit programs, marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. Lower courts have started addressing DOMA's constitutionality. […] This report discusses DOMA and legal challenges to it. It reviews legal principles applied to determine the validity of a marriage contracted in another state and surveys the various approaches employed by states to address same-sex marriage. It also examines previous Congressional resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment and limiting federal courts' jurisdiction to hear or determine any question pertaining to the interpretation of DOMA."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31994
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