Respect for Marriage Act

H.R. 197; S. 29

The Problem

Prior to a June 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) singled out lawfully married same-sex couples for unequal treatment under federal law. This law discriminated in two important ways. First, Section 2 of DOMA purports to allow states to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples. Second, Section 3 of the law carves all same-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, out of all federal statutes, regulations and rulings applicable to all other married people—thereby denying them over 1,100 federal benefits and protections.

Fortunately, the Court held Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in Windsor v. United States (2013). Two years later, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Court ruled that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional. This ruling supersedes Section 2 of DOMA and therefore leaves it unenforceable. However, DOMA’s discriminatory language still remains part of the U.S. Code, even though it is unenforceable.

What is the Respect for Marriage Act?

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) repeals DOMA in its entirety and ensures that the U.S. Code reflects that every married couple is entitled to the federal benefits and protections that are offered by the federal government to legally wed couples. RMA embodies the idea that the U.S. Code should reflect our nation’s commitment to equality rather than codifying bigotry.

Americans Support Extending Protection to Same-Sex Couples

The system of federal benefits has always been based upon marriage.  Polling shows strong support for marriage equality.  An April 2015 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that a record-high of 6 in 10 Americans support marriage equality and believe that states should not be allowed to prohibit marriage between same-sex couples. Moreover, a June 2015 HRC-Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll found that 55 percent of voters are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry.

It is clear that the American public opposes discriminatory laws, like the Defense of Marriage Act, that unfairly target same-sex couples, and it is time that the U.S. Code reflects that opinion.

What is the Current Status of the Bill?

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on January 6, 2015. 


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Last Updated: January 21, 2016