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WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious groups are divided over a lawsuit filed Tuesday (March 3) to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which gay groups claim unconstitutionally denies them the rights and responsibilities given to straight married couples.
The Clinton-era law prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages or providing federal benefits to same-sex couples. It also says states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive Washington think tank, estimates that the surviving member of a same-sex couple would be denied more than $8,000 a year in Social Security survivor death benefits.
“This discrimination also clashes with the basic call for love and inclusion that is a cornerstone value across faith traditions,” CAP said in a statement.
The suit, filed in federal court in Boston, comes as the California Supreme Courts hears oral arguments Thursday (March 5) in a challenge to last year’s Proposition 8, which overturned same-sex marriage rights in California.
Religious groups that support the challenge to DOMA include the California Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, Unitarian Universalists and Quakers, according to CAP.
More conservative religious groups, however, remain opposed to nearly all government recognition of same-sex marriages, and say DOMA is needed to protect states from being forced to recognize gay and lesbian
unions.
“Public policy should be decided by the public, not by one judge and a very small number of radical activists,” said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel of Alliance Defense Fund Statement, in a statement. “America continues to overwhelmingly reaffirm that marriage is one man and one woman. Does the democratic process mean anything anymore?”
By Karin Hamilton
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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