Respect for Marriage Act passes with Republican votes

By Farah Bassyouni Dec 9, 2022

This summer, the Supreme Court overturned its ruling on Roe v. Wade after 50 years. With this decision, the court’s 2015 legalization of gay marriage has been under attack. A member of the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas, suggested the reconsideration of the court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, known as Obergefell v. Hodges. 

The suggestion was enough to prompt Democrats to act quickly to protect same-sex marriage before Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January. 

The Respect for Marriage Act is a bill protecting federal recognition of same-sex marriage. It requires the federal government to recognize a marriage that was legal in the state it was performed, and aims to be a measure against any action the Supreme Court may take to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges. 

The long-awaited legislation is expected to be cleared by the House this week with support from many religious groups. The religious support reflects a change in attitude, according to Tim Shultz. Shultz is the president of the First Amendment Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting religious freedom for people of all faiths. 

“This shows there was a bipartisan way for LGBTQ freedom and religious freedom,” Shultz said, according to ABC news. 

Religious organizations such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints publicly endorsed the proposal as one that “protects religious freedom.” As a result, 12 Republicans joined 49 Democrats in supporting the bill. It’s expected to easily win approval in the House before being signed by President Joe Biden. 

The bill is intended to act as an insurance policy if the Supreme Court decides to act, and would require all states to recognize unions legally performed in the country. But this bill  wouldn’t force states to continue to issue same-sex marriage licenses, as is required now under the Obergefell ruling. Therefore, it protects existing marriages but it would not prevent states from banning same-sex marriage licenses if the Supreme Court decides to overturn the ruling. 

Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, hopes that won’t happen. She was involved in negotiations on the bill. 

“I think by the end of the process, there was a recognition that people were actually negotiating in good faith there,” Minter said, according to ABC news.

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