Marriage Protection Act

Marriage Protection Act

The Marriage Protection Act (MPA) is a bill in the United States Congress to amend the federal judicial code to deny federal courts jurisdiction to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or the MPA.[1] Originally introduced in 2003 as H.R. 3313, the Republican-controlled 108th Congress passed it in the House in 2004, but not in the Senate.


Text of proposed code

As agreed to by the House of Representatives, the Act would have added Section 1632 to Chapter 99 in Part IV of Title 28 of the United States Code (28 U.S.C. § 1632), governing the judiciary and judicial procedures, to read:

No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C or this section.

28 U.S.C. § 1738C forbids requiring any state or equivalent government to credit a same-sex relationship treated as marriage in another state or equivalent government, as codified by passage of DOMA.

Major actions

On October 16, 2003, the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by John Hostettler (RIN) and immediately referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The bill was co-sponsored by Ron Paul of Texas[2]. The committee considered the proposal on July 14, 2004, and subsequently amended the Act, which was then placed on the House Calendar on July 19, 2004. On July 21, 2004, the House Rules Committee provided rules for consideration of the Act. On July 22, 2004, the rules were accepted by the House and the Act was immediately considered. The Act passed the House by 233 yea to 194 nay votes.

The bill was handed to the Senate, where it was received and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 7, 2004. It died in committee, and was reintroduced by Hostettler as H.R. 1100 in the 109th Congress on March 3, 2005, referred to the House Judiciary Committee, and passed on to the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property on April 4, 2005; it then had 76 cosponsors. It again died in committee and was reintroduced, this time by Dan Burton (RIN) as H.R. 724 in the 110th United States Congress, on January 30, 2007, with 50 cosponsors. Since March 1, 2007, it has rested with the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, and died when the 110th Congress ended. It was reintroduced again by Burton in the 111th Congress on March 3, 2009 as H.R. 1269 and was referred to the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy.


The Act raises Constitutional questions in relation to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Joanna Grossman, writing for FindLaw, emphasized "the need for the federal courts to weigh in", rather than for states to continue making a public-policy exception when deciding the status of same-sex relationships independently of the decisions of other states, as states have in fact been permitted to do in the case of incestuous marriages.[1] The Act was designed to protect DOMA by prohibiting federal courts from hearing cases like that of Nancy Wilson, who sued to have her relationship with Paula Schoenwether treated as marriage in Florida because it had been treated as marriage in Massachusetts (in that case, the federal court upheld DOMA in that jurisdiction).[3]

The U.S. Constitution permits Congress to make "Exceptions" to court jurisdiction. The degree to which such exceptions may undermine federal separation of powers, the Equal Protection Clause, or the Due Process Clause, may render the MPA unconstitutional, according to Grossman.[1]

See also


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