News & Opinion
The US Senate has passed a momentous bipartisan bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage. The bill is expected to now return to the House of Representatives after which, it will be sent to President Biden to sign once it has been approved.
The legislation gained traction shortly after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the federal right to an abortion. The realization within the LGBTQ+ community and amongst allies that the same threat could be posed to same-sex marriages was the push that was needed to get the ball rolling on the legislation.
The "Respect for Marriage Act" would serve as "speedbump" should any constitutional rights for same-sex or interracial marriages be diminished in any way that may be parallel to the overturn of Roe. V. Wade. It will also require all states to recognize valid same-sex marriages that took place in other states and will ensure that all federal benefits are also extended to same-sex marriages.
The bill will officially repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act" that was enacted in 1996, which is a specifically defined law that states that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Supporters of the of the “Respect for Marriage Act” hope that the bill will pass before Republicans take hold of the house in January.
In light of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, persons across the country feared that other constitutional rights may also be overruled. Obergefell v. Hodges is the landmark decision that originally legalized same-sex marriages in 2015. If Obergefell v. Hodges was overturned in the same way that Roe v. Wade was, it would mean that a state would be well within its constitutional rights to effectively ban same-sex marriages. Whilst the legislation will require that all states recognize same-sex marriage licenses, it does not require all states to issue such licenses. This amendment to the legislation gained quite a backlash from LGBTQ+ advocates who supported the enactment of the bill.
The vote on Tuesday for the "Respect for Marriage Act" was tallied at 61-36 with 12 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The Senate vote is a direct reflection of the growing support for legal same-sex marriages publicly. A sentiment that resulted in a new high of 71% of Americans in support of the recognition of same-sex marriages, according to Gallup tracking polls in June.
In a statement, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer hailed the decision as an advancement forward in the "long but inexorable march towards greater equality". He continued to say that “The Respect for Marriage Act is a momentous step toward greater justice for millions of Americans. No one in a same-sex marriage or an interracial marriage should have to worry if their marriage will be invalidated."
President Biden is also in full support of the “Respect for Marriage Act” and had the following to say in regard to the senate vote:
“With today’s bipartisan Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, the United States is on the brink of reaffirming a fundamental truth: love is love … Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.”
The “Respect for Marriage Act” will only further solidify the due recognition of individuals to assert their right to love who they choose openly and freely. The legislation itself states that Congress finds the following to be true:
“(1) No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.
(2) Diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises. Therefore, Congress affirms that such people and their diverse beliefs are due proper respect.
(3) Millions of people, including interracial and same-sex couples, have entered into marriages and have enjoyed the rights and privileges associated with marriage. Couples joining in marriage deserve to have the dignity, stability, and ongoing protection that marriage affords to families and children.”