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Senator Dianne Feinstein introduces repeal of same-sex marriage law

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Pali Cooper
Senator Dianne Feinstein and Pali Cooper
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation today to repeal a law that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples.

When Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein voted against the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, she said family laws are the responsibility of states, not the federal government. Now she’s introduced a bill to strike the law known as DOMA from the books.

Feinstein says there are 18,000 legally married same-sex couples in California alone. "Right now because of DOMA," she says, "these couples cannot take advantage of federal protections available to every other married couple in this country."

DOMA prohibits same-sex spouses from filing joint income taxes, receiving surviving spouse Social Security benefits or taking unpaid leave to care for a sick loved one.

Feinstein introduced one of those California couples, Jeanne Rizzo and Pali Cooper, who were married in 2008 and are raising a son together. Cooper said filling out their taxes was both confusing and cumbersome. But it was the intangible that bothered her the most – that the federal government didn't recognize her family

Up next for the bill: a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. So far, the measure has only Democratic co-sponsors.

A similar bill was also introduced in the House.