Lambda Legal Applauds Swift Senate Action on the Bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act

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November 16, 2022

Lambda Legal today hailed U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s move to secure Senate passage of the amended Respect for Marriage Act. Senator Schumer filed for cloture on the bill and a cloture vote is expected this week, paving the way for a vote on the bill itself soon thereafter. Senator Schumer’s action follows the introduction of an amended bill that a bipartisan group of senators – Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) – crafted in order to secure the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. The amended bill acknowledges the existing constitutional and other religious liberty rights to oppose marriage for same-sex couples and provides that houses of worship and certain other religious entities cannot be forced to provide goods, services, or facilities for the solemnization or celebration of same-sex couples’ marriages. The amendment also confirms that the law cannot be interpreted in a way that would allow polygamous marriages.  

Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings issued the following statement: 

“Lambda Legal fought through the courts for decades to secure the right to marry and we applaud this historic legislation which will cement in federal law the right of same-sex couples to have their marriages recognized across the country. We thank the bipartisan group of senators who were committed to seeing this legislation through as well as Senator Schumer for following through on the promise to hold a vote after the mid-terms. The Respect for Marriage Act truly will help LGBTQ Americans build and secure their families free from the threats of a renegade Supreme Court and discriminatory state leaders.” 

Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer C. Pizer added: 

“It is enormously gratifying to be able to see in the very near future a final erasure of the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has been an ugly stain on our federal statute books since 1996. Key parts of that hurtful law haven’t been enforceable since 2013 thanks to our prior, much more fair-minded U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in United States v. Windsor. And state bans on same-sex couples marrying have been unenforceable since that Court’s 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision. But even if largely dormant since Obergefell, those marriage bans still live on the books in many states. With the current extremist orientation of the Court raising concerns that Obergefell may be next on the Court’s hit list, married same-sex couples are confronting the possibility that their marriages may once again be recognized in one state, but not another. 

“The Respect for Marriage Act addresses that concern. While not perfect, this legislation will ensure marriages solemnized validly anywhere in these United States are valid everywhere in our country without government discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. We applaud the bipartisan group that understood the urgency and worked hard to find the path to mitigate the harms in case the Court were to take the outrageous, discriminatory step of erasing the fundamental right to marry. And because anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains widespread and harmful, we will need the Equality Act to follow the Respect for Marriage Act quickly into the U.S. Code. Now, we look forward to the critical protective step of the Respect for Marriage becoming the law of the land.”