The Respect for Marriage Act seeks to broaden the definition of marriage to entitle gay and lesbian married couples to the full range of federal rights and benefits currently available only to heterosexual married couples.
Couples who are in a legal domestic partnership or civil union will not be eligible for the federal benefits unless they are also legally married.
Six states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. Those states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
Forty-one states ban same-sex marriage.
DOMA supporters say public opinion favors the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman as husband and wife. “Thirty-one times Americans have voted on marriage and all 31 times they voted to affirm one man and one woman,” said Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa.
Other supporters note that when DOMA was passed 15 years ago, gay and lesbian couples had no statutory marriage rights in any state. The law did not disenfranchise anyone, they say.