Respect For Marriage Act will enshrine federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages

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The White House was lit in rainbow colors on Dec 13, 2022
The White House was lit in rainbow colors on the evening of the signing of the Respect For Marriage Act on Dec. 13, 2022.

In a pivotal victory for the LGBTQ community, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act on Dec. 13. It will enshrine federal protections and guarantee federal recognition of both same-sex and interracial marriages. This bill will also overturn the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, which was passed in 1996. DOMA outlined that the only valid marriages were between heterosexual couples.

“Today is a good day,” President Biden said during the signing ceremony. “A day America takes a vital step toward equality, for liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support while it was moving through the U.S. Congress. In the Senate, the votes were 61-36 in favor of the bill, with 12 Republicans joining all Senate Democrats in support of the legislation. This was also seen in the House of Representatives where the bill passed 258-169, with a total of 39 Republicans joining 219 Democrats in support of the legislation.

The bipartisan passage of the bill reflects the growing approval the American public toward same-sex marriage. As reported by Gallup, 71% of Americans say they support same-sex marriage. In comparison, back in 1996 when the question was asked for the first time, only 27% of Americans said they supported same-sex marriage.

“The effort to pass the Respect for Marriage Act spanned decades and involved the work of so many,” said Amanda Johnston of the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLBTQLAD) organization. “The law’s passage this year demonstrates the strong and growing support for equality among Americans of all political parties and from all walks of life.”

The passage of the Respect for Marriage Act guarantees federal protections of same-sex marriage if the U.S. Supreme Court were to ever overturn Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) as they overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) this year. Obergefell guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. It’s important to note that this Respect For Marriage bill does not require states to allow same-sex marriages. Rather, this bill requires states to recognize same-sex marriage certificates and licenses if that marriage happened in another state where it was legalized. In the state of New Jersey, same-sex marriage was codified into state law recently.

“Here in New Jersey, we worked with our pro-equality legislature to codify marriage equality earlier this year,” said Christian Fuscarino, the Executive Director of Garden State Equality, NJ’s statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. “The signing of the RFMA protects marriages for LGBTQ+ people and interracial couples, meaning that marriages performed in New Jersey will be valid everywhere in the United States, no matter what happens at the federal level.”

The Respect for Marriage Act marks one of the last, landmark victories for the Democratic Party this year as they’ll lose control of the House of Representatives come January.

While this is a pivotal moment for many in the LGBTQ community, advocates and organizations are still focused on further achievements to work for in the coming months.

“Let us take the joy and energy from this celebration to continue the work for full freedom, safety, and justice for all people,” said GLBTQLAD’s Johnston.