Dear Mr. Stoll:
Thank you for contacting me about the definition of marriage. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important matter.
As you may know, in 1996 Congress overwhelmingly passed—and former President Bill Clinton signed into law—the Defense of Marriage Act (P.L. 104–199). This federal law defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." I agree with this position.
Under the laws, traditions, and customs of all fifty states, marriage has historically been defined as the union of a man and a woman. However, judicial rulings—and outright lawlessness by local officials in some states—have threatened traditional marriage and moved this debate onto the national stage. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas provides lower courts with the leverage needed to invalidate traditional marriage laws. The first major assault on traditional marriage came in Goodridge v. Mass. Dept. of Health, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court—citing the Lawrence decision—overturned that state's traditional marriage law. Other activist state courts have followed Massachusetts’s lead. In light of these judicial trends, constitutional scholars on both sides of the aisle agree that the Defense of Marriage Act and similar state laws are now in peril. I believe that judges should strictly interpret the law and avoid the temptation to legislate from the bench or color their rulings with personal ideology.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind should relevant legislation regarding the definition of marriage be considered during the 111th Congress. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
United States Senator
Thank you for contacting me regarding same-sex marriage. I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Marriage laws have historically been the responsibility of state governments, and I generally oppose federal government intrusion into matters of state authority. Currently, there are four states in which marriages for same-sex couples are currently performed. However, in 23 states these unions are either statutorily or constitutionally banned. Clearly, one state's action can have serious and far-reaching implications for other states, particularly because our Constitution requires states to give full faith and credit to the laws of other states.
In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, and provided that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages granted under another state's laws. I voted for this federal law, and I continue to support it today because I believe the traditional family unit should remain the foundation of our society. With respect to marriage, I am a strong supporter of the due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. However, I do not support legislation that extends the traditional definition and recognition of marriage to same-sex couples.
On September 15, 2009, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3567, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009. The bill contains provisions that would force all states and territories in the Union to recognize all marriages that are legal in the state of origin. This legislation would further repeal the federal law implemented by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which stipulates that “no state or territory needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.” Currently, no Senate bill has been introduced to repeal DOMA.
Should Congress act on this legislation, I will keep your views in mind. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator