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Defense of Marriage Act

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Definition: The Federal Defense of Marriage Act does two things. First it says that no state shall be required to recognize the laws of another state in regard to same-sex marriage. Second, it defines the words "marriage" and "spouse" in Federal Law.

The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Essentially it:

  • Allows each state to deny any marriage-like relationship between persons of the same sex which has been recognized in another state.
  • It explicitly states that for purposes of Federal Law marriage is "a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife" and defines spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

    Since 1996 many states have passed their own "Defense of Marriage" Acts.

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