Dianne Feinstein on Gay Marriage

Last Updated : Sep 13, 2012

Summary

Senator Feinstein is a strong supporter of marriage equality and repealing DOMA. However, she has not always publicly advocated for this position. While she has always opposed DOMA, she initially supported the view that marriage was the union of one man and one woman and asserted that marriage was a state's rights issue and not within the limited powers of the federal government. This view has altered to the point that Senator Feinstein is now the primary sponsor of legislation to enact same-sex marriage in all states.

Defense of Marriage Act

In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. This legislation did two things. First, it defined marriage as between one man and one woman for all federal purposes. Second, it affirmed that no state was required to recognize a marriage in another state.

Speaking against the legislation, Senator Feinstein stated that she defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but that violence and poverty were greater threats to the family than the definition of marriage. While she agreed with the legislation in principle, she stated that she opposed it on two grounds with the first being that it was an over-reach of federal power and the second being that it was not necessary.

In backing this position, Senator Feinstein noted that marriage was not a power relegated to the federal government and was therefore a matter for the states to legislate. She noted that if the federal government could define marriage, it could also define divorce and other items. She further noted that states were already allowed to not recognize a marriage conducted in another state and were acting on the matter by passing laws to define marriage within each state.

Marriage Amendment - 2004

When the Republican led Senate attempted to pass an amendment to define marriage in 2004, Senator Feinstein made many of the same arguments made in 1996 in her opposition to the bill. First, she called out the tenth amendment and noted that marriage was family law and that family law, such as adoption, was always relegated to the states. She again noted that each state had the right not to recognize a marriage from another state and therefore action was not necessary at the federal level as the states were already addressing the issue. She stated that the bill was election year antics meant to excite the base.

Marriage Amendment - 2006

In 2006 the Senate again attempted to pass an amendment. Again, Senator Feinstein's arguments against the proposal came in two parts: marriage was family law and the realm of the states; states were already acting to limit the definition of marriage within each state and that was their right. She asserted that the federal government should not be getting involved in family law.

Proposition 8

In 2008, Senator Feinstein spoke out in opposition to proposition 8 in California. In doing so, she stated that the law was not about schools or kids, but was about discrimination. In reacting to the various rulings on the law as it passed through the courts, Senator Feinstein stated that feelings on the matter were changing and that marriage equality would eventually be given for all couples.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In 2010, Senator Feinstein supported the repeal of the don't ask, don't tell policy. She stated that in her heart she believed that the policy was not constitutional as it treats people differently, and deprives them of their right to equality under the law.

Respect for Marriage Act

In March of 2011, Senator Feinstein introduced the Respect for Marriage Act. This legislation repeals DOMA to grant federal government benefits to any married couple. Presumably, this would also repeal the provision that allowed one state to refuse a marriage carried out in another state.

 

Defense of Marriage Act

In September of 1996, Senator Feinstein spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. She asserted in that speech that while she viewed marriage as between one man and one woman, she did not view gay marriage as a threat. She stated that the she opposed the bill because Congress did not have the authority to dictate marriage, because the states already had the right to not to recognize out of state marriages, and that states were already legislating in this area.

 

Federal Marriage Amendment - 2004

In July of 2004, Senator Feinstein spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to efforts to pass an amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman as having no chance of passing and being merely election year antics. She repeated several assertions that this was a state's rights issue and that the states were already addressing the matter.

 

Federal Marriage Amendment - 2006

In June of 2006, Senator Feinstein spoke in the Senate floor in opposition to efforts to pass an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. She asserted that the matter was family law and that family law was state law. This made the matter of marriage not really worthy of Senate attention.

 

Support for Proposition 8

In 2008, California passed Proposition 8 that effectively defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Senator Feinstein made an ad opposing the proposition and calling it discrimination.

 

Response to Prop 8 Decision

In May of 2009, Senator Feinstein released a press statement noting her stance on the Supreme Court Decision to uphold proposition 8.

In August of 2010, Senator Feinstein released another statement when another judge ruled the law unconstitutional.

 

GLBT Month

In June of 2010, Senator Feinstein released a press statement noting her support for GLBT Pride Month.

 

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In November of 2010, Senator Feinstein released a press statement noting her support for the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.

 

Respect for Marriage Act

In March of 2011, Senator Feinstein spoke on the Senate floor in support of legislation that she was introducing called the Respect for Marriage Act. In that speech, she asserted that the legislation would repeal DOMA in its entirety and would give equal rights for all Americans in all states. She spoke at a press conference as well and outlined the legislation.

 

MSNBC - November 2011

In November of 2011, Senator Feinstein appeared on MSNBC and discussed her legislation to repeal DOMA - the Respect for Marriage Act. In the interview, Senator Feinstein notes that there may not be enough votes at the moment to pass the act to repeal DOMA, but opinions are changing. She also notes that states determine marriage and therefore federal benefits cannot be denied to those with a legal marriage. She states that however long it takes, she will remain in the fight for marriage benefits.

Voting Record

2006 Constitutional Amendment

In 2006 the Senate voted on adding a constitutional amendment which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and ensured to no state would be capable of conferring marital status on a union other than a man or a woman. Dianne Feinstein voted against the 2006 amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Dianne Feinstein voted against the 2006 amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

2004 Constitutional Amendment

In 2004 the Senate voted on adding a constitutional amendment which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and ensured to no state would be capable of conferring marital status on a union other than a man or a woman. Dianne Feinstein voted against the 2004 amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman.

Dianne Feinstein voted against the 2004 amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman.

Defense of Marriage Act

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act passed the Senate with the support of 100% of the Republicans and roughly 2/3 of the Democrats. The bill defined marriage as a union between 1 man and 1 woman, and stated that no jurisdiction would be required to honor the marriage betweeen two men or two women which was granted in another jurisdiction. Dianne Feinstein voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Dianne Feinstein voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

Session-111; Bill Number-S 4023; Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 - Cosponsor

Provides for repeal of the current Department of Defense (DOD) policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, to be effective 60 days after the Secretary of Defense has received DOD's comprehensive review on the implementation of such repeal, and the President, Secretary, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) certify to the congressional defense committees that they have considered the report and proposed plan of action, that DOD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by such repeal, and that implementation of such policies and regulations is consistent with the standards of military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion, and military recruiting and retention. Provides that, until such time as the above conditions are met, the current policy shall remain in effect.

Session-112; Bill Number-S 598; Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 - Prime Sponsor

Amends the Defense of Marriage Act to repeal a provision that prohibited a state, territory, possession, or Indian tribe from being required to recognize any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a same sex marriage. Amends the federal rules of construction added by such Act concerning the definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" to provide that, for purposes of any federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the state where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any state, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a state. Removes the definition of "spouse" (currently, a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife).

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