Human Rights Campaign Urges Federal Lawmakers to Pass Bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act

by Delphine Luneau

Legislation Would Repeal 1990s-Era ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ That Was Later Rendered Unenforceable By Supreme Court, Affirms Obergefell v. Hodges

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — today marked the introduction and urged the passage of the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act in Congress. This legislation would guarantee the federal rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage s in the federal code, repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and affirms that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states. HRC is urging federal lawmakers to move forward with passage of this important legislation.

In response to the introduction of the bill, HRC Interim President Joni Madison issued the following statement:

“The Defense of Marriage Act — which excluded legally married same-sex couples from accessing the federal rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage — is a stain upon our nation and deserves to be relegated to the trash bin of History. With the Respect for Marriage Act, Congress has the opportunity to right this wrong by creating an inclusive law that also standardizes the mechanism for evaluating when a marriage should be given federal recognition and affirms that public acts, records, and judicial proceedings should be honored across this country.”

Key Provisions of the Bill

The Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that marriage equality is protected nationally through several provisions:

  • Repealing the 1990s era Defense of Marriage Act. Passed in 1996, it 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. DOMA was rendered unenforceable, in two stages, by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor v. United States ruling and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.

  • Establish that “place of celebration” is the standard of recognition for federal benefits of a same-sex marriage. Under this provision, if marriage equality was ever to cease to be recognized in a given state, same-sex couples who travel to get married in another state – one where same-sex marriages are still recognized – would still retain federal marriage benefits.

  • Affirm that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states. Adoption orders, divorce decrees, and other public acts must be honored by all states consistent with the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution.

  • Codify the federal protections conferred by the Obergefell and Windsor rulings. The landmark ruling stated that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.

More Than Two-Thirds of People Support Marriage Equality

The latest survey from PRRI this year on support for LGBTQ+ rights showed nearly seven in ten Americans (68%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Support has increased by 14 percentage points since 2014 (54%). Republicans are now nearly evenly divided over same-sex marriage (48% support, 50% oppose), while 81% of Democrats and 73% of independents favor marriage equality. Today, majorities of most religious groups favor marriage equality. White evangelical Protestants (35%) and Latter-day Saints (46%) remain the only major religious groups with less than majority support for same-sex marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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