July 14, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Solmonese, Wolfson to testify at Senate DOMA hearing

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Two prominent voices in the LGBT rights movement — Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson — will be among the witnesses who’ll testify at an upcoming Senate hearing on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which will be the first congressional hearing against DOMA, will take place on Wednesday. The hearing is set to begin at 10 am in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The hearing is intended to highlight the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the committee, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who’s also on the committee, is lead sponsor.

According to a notice from the committee, Solmonese and Wolfson will testify in addition to individuals who are in or were in same-sex marriages. These unions have been affected by DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Republican witnesses are also expected testify at the hearing, but they have yet to be named. Presumably, these witnesses would speak out against DOMA repeal.

The named witnesses who were in or are in same-sex marriages are:

* Susan Murray, who lives in Ferrisburgh, Vt., with her spouse, Karen Murray. An attorney with the Burlington office of Langrock, Sperry & Wool, Murray was the co-counsel in the lawsuit Baker v. Vermont, which established civil unions in Vermont in 2000.

* Andrew Sorbo, a Cheshire, Conn., resident who was married to Colin Atterbury. Before dying of pancreatic cancer in 2009, Atterbury was a retired Veterans Affairs hospital administrator and professor of medicine at Yale University. Sorbo, now retired, worked for 35 years as a history teacher and principal.

* Ron Wallen, an Indio, Calif. resident, who married Tom Carrollo in 2008 after being together for 55 years. In March, Carrollo lost his battle to cancer. After Carrollo’s death, Wallen’s income was compromised because DOMA prohibits him from receiving his spouse’s Social Security payment. Wallen would have been able to receive these payments had he been in an opposite-sex marriage. According to the hearing notice, Wallen is unable to make payments on his family home and is faced with selling the residence, after just losing his spouse.

UPDATE: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and original co-sponsor of DOMA repeal legislation, is set to chair the second panel at the hearing in which Solmonese and Wolfson are expected to testify.

“The Defense of Marriage Act is a discriminatory law that deserves to be repealed,” Coons said in a statement. “This hearing is important. It will study the impact DOMA has had on American families and I’m humbled that Chairman Leahy asked me to play such a substantial role in it. I look forward to exploring DOMA’s effects with our invited witnesses and helping to move the Respect for Marriage Act forward.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

5 Comments
  • would love to come to speek on how DOMA hurst not kust us but our kids, we been married for 4 years, and its time to repeal this and rights for all and help stop treating people deffrent due to being gay.

  • It is way past time to dismiss this disgusting, perverted law called DOMA. It was passed only to appease the right wing community who despise equal rights for anyone but themselves.

  • I am delighted, honored and humbled to have been selected as one of the three witnesses to testify on behalf of justice and equality. Although I am 78 years old (slightly past my prime) and have no intention of seeking anyone else after having had the very best for almost 58 years, I will never rest nor stop doing whatever I can to insure that those couples who follow Tom and me won’t have to have anything but the same equal civil rights as every other American citizen.

    • Hello Ron
      My name is mike – I was one of the founding members of marriage equality new york – I designed the logo as well —
      your testimony will be for all those men and women that lost their homes to greedy relatives that threw them out in the street after loosing their lovers — it is also for all the men and women that were told they could not visit their lovers in the hospital because they were not recognized as family.
      . Thank yu for being a witness and speaking for those that have suffered because of DOMA.
      — just remember to breathe and take ur time and yu will be fine — peace mike

  • Jill Johnson-Young

    Ron, I’m glad you will be there. I was one of your fellow video-ees from EQCA, and lost my beloved partner Linda last year after 23 years. We were told when you were facing your husband’s death, and we grieved for you. My testimony will be there for the record. Please know we are there in spirit, and proud of you doing this. Tell them for us what it’s like not to be treated with dignity when one’s spouse dies. And ask them to put DOMA to rest. Marriage matters to us. I did remarry, with my Linda’s help actually, and I want this marriage to be legal, for us and for our kids.

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