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Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

21 September 1996

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The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Pub.L. 104–199, 110 Stat. 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 U.S.C. § 7 and 28 U.S.C. § 1738C) is a United States federal law that, prior to being ruled unconstitutional, defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. Until Section 3 of the Act was struck down in 2013 (United States v. Windsor), DOMA, in conjunction with other statutes, had barred same-sex married couples from being recognized as "spouses" for purposes of federal laws, effectively barring them from receiving federal marriage benefits. DOMA's passage did not prevent individual states from recognizing same-sex marriage, but it imposed constraints on the benefits received by all legally married same-sex couples. 

H. R. 3396


One Hundred Fourth Congress
of the United States of America

AT THE SECOND SESSION
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-six

An Act

To define and protect the institution of marriage.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Defense of Marriage Act'.
SEC. 2. POWERS RESERVED TO THE STATES.

(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 1738B the following:
`Sec. 1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof

`No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.'.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1738B the following new item:
`1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof.'.
SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE.

(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`Sec. 7. Definition of `marriage' and `spouse'

`In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 6 the following new item:
`7. Definition of `marriage' and `spouse'.'.
Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.