Respect for Marriage Act passed by U.S Senate

by Gabriel Neuman, Policy Counsel and Government Relations Manager
| Dec 01, 2022

On Tuesday, November 29th, the United States Senate signaled its support for the LGBTQ+ community by passing the Respect for Marriage Act, which codifies same-sex and interracial marriages into US law. This bill would require that all states recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in any other state; and recognize those marriages for consideration of federal benefits like Medicare and Social Security. It would not, however, require that individual states allow these marriages to be performed.

Passed with bipartisan support, lawmakers secured essential Republican support to pass the bill with a 61-36 vote, superseding the minimum 60 required votes to avoid filibuster. The measure was first brought by the House this summer following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which reversed the long-standing precedent of protecting abortion as a constitutional right. The LGBTQ+ community, marriage rights advocates, and Democrats worried that the reversal could call other decisions regarding civil liberties into question, such as marriage equality. This bill, once passed, will shield same-sex marriage from potential further erosion of the legal principles upon which Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, relies.

"By passing the bill, the Senate is sending a message that every senator needs to hear," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ahead of the vote. "No matter who you are, or who you love, you too deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law."

This victory could not have been won without the diligent efforts of the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, Senator Rob Portman (Ohio), the first in his caucus to endorse same-sex marriage in 2013 and whose son is gay, said he initially felt less optimistic about the Senate’s ability to pass the bill, noting how many of his colleagues had “strongly held views” on the issue. However, months of negotiation between LGBTQ+ advocates, marriage advocates, and religious groups convinced 12 Republicans, in addition to all present Democrats, to back the measure. After years in which opposing same-sex marriage was the consensus position by legislators on both sides, and later, a rallying cry for many Republicans, the passage of this Act shows how quickly public opinion has changed on the issue and demonstrates the lasting power of our community.

The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass and land on President Biden’s desk.