The Respect for Marriage Act Finally Passes Congress

The Respect for Marriage Act Finally Passes Congress

In a major victory for LGBTQ Americans, the House of Representatives has finally passed legislation that would require states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriage, bringing the bill one step closer to being codified into law.

The House overwhelmingly voted 258 to 169 to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, with 39 Republicans crossing party lines to throw their support behind the bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden. The bill had previously passed the House earlier this summer but was bounced back after the Senate GOP amended the legislation to include two stipulations: that the law would not require nonprofit religious groups to perform same-sex weddings and that the government doesn't need to protect polygamous marriages.

While the bill does not make it a federal requirement for states to legalize same-sex marriage, it does bolster the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which first legalized same-sex marriage by ensuring that states must recognize another state's legal marriage regardless of their own laws. The Respect for Marriage Act also effectively repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The intense push to pass the Respect for Marriage Act began shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had federally protected the right to an abortion, this June. Justice Clarence Thomas specifically called out Obergefell v. Hodgesas one of the decisions the court should strongly reconsider in his Dobbs v. Jackson opinion.

Given the wave of draconian abortion bans that went into effect in conservative states following the overturning of Roe — — and the fact that the Supreme Court just started hearing arguments in a case about a graphic designer's business for weddings that didn't want to work with same-sex couples — the Democrats' rush to codify LGBTQ protections in law is understandable, especially considering the overwhelming bipartisan support the bill had both in Congress and in the court of public opinion.

Nancy Pelosi, who recently announced that she would be stepping down as Speaker of the House, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that she was "overjoyed" that the Respect for Marriage Act was one of the last pieces of legislation she would be presiding over.

"Just as I began my career fighting for LGBTQ communities, I am overjoyed that one of the final bills I will sign as speaker will be the Respect for Marriage Act: ensuring the federal government will never again stand in the way of marrying the person you love," she wrote.

President Biden echoed his support for the bill in a statement, saying: “For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled... I look forward to welcoming them at the White House after the House passes this legislation and sends it to my desk, where I will promptly and proudly sign it into law.”

Former Representative Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, commented on the bill's passage, saying: “It’s a sign of enormous political change in America, and it’s meaningful for people. It’s real. It’s not a symbolic gesture. I know a lot of married gay and lesbian people who have been worried ever since Clarence Thomas said what he said. So this is reassurance to them as well.”

Photo via Getty/ Anna Moneymaker


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