Congress moving to codify same-sex marriage

Nov 20, 2022

On Oct. 29, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified same-sex and interracial marriages through federal protections. During the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the Supreme Court reconsider Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, prompting lawmakers to craft the legislation. The legislation repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which established a federal definition of marriage as a “legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The bill cleared the House of Representatives in July with support from 47 Republicans. However, Republicans expressed concerns that the legislation would endanger religious freedom. To address this, an amendment to the bill ensured nonprofit religious organizations wouldn’t be required to provide services, facilities or goods for same-sex weddings. 

The legislation wouldn’t force any state to allow same-sex couples to marry, but it would require states to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages and protect current same-sex marriages. Specifically, the legislation repeals and replaces the Defense of Marriage Act.

The legislation is meant to be a backstop if the Supreme Court were to act against same-sex marriage, ensuring that it stays legal even if Obergefell is overturned, but it doesn’t prohibit states from taking steps to ban or restrict same-sex marriage. On Dec. 13, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.

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