Lambda Legal Hails Senate Passage of the Bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act

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November 29, 2022

Lambda Legal today applauded the U.S. Senate’s approval this evening of the amended Respect for Marriage Act. The bill now goes back to the U.S. House of Representatives for final approval and could be before President Biden for his signature by the end of the week. The amended bill, crafted by 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.) – had secured 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 stated:

“Today the US Senate took critical action to protect LGBTQ+ families from the possible depredations of a rogue Supreme Court. By passing the RMA, the Senate has put in place legal safeguards that shield the rights of loving couples to form families against judicial overreach. We applaud this long-overdue step forward.”  

Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer C. Pizer added:

“Today we are witness to the imminent 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 have faced the possibility that their marriages would once again be recognized in one state, but not another.

“The Respect for Marriage Act addresses that concern. While not perfect, this legislation ensures 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.”

Equality Act