Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report

GAO-04-353R: Jan 23, 2004

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The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provides definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" that are to be used in construing the meaning of a federal law and, thus, affect the interpretation of a wide variety of federal laws in which marital status is a factor. In 1997, we issued a report identifying 1,049 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor. In preparing the 1997 report, we limited our search to laws enacted prior to September 21, 1996, the date DOMA was signed into law. Recently, Congress asked us to update our 1997 compilation. We have identified 120 statutory provisions involving marital status that were enacted between September 21, 1996, and December 31, 2003. During the same period, 31 statutory provisions involving marital status were repealed or amended in such a way as to eliminate marital status as a factor. Consequently, as of December 31, 2003, our research identified a total of 1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.

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