U.S. House of Representatives Passes Final Respect for Marriage Act, Bill Now Goes to President Biden for Signature

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

HRC flag with blue background and yellow equal sign flies in front of U.S. Capitol

The Respect for Marriage Act – which passed 258-169, with All Democrats and 39 Republican Votes – is Now One Step From Becoming Law

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — celebrated today the second, and final, bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the House of Representatives. The bill passed 258 to 169, and garnered the votes of all Democrats and 39 Republicans, demonstrating the widespread and bipartisan support for marriage equality. The landmark legislation now heads to President Biden for his signature, after which it will be law. This legislation will guarantee the federal rights, benefits and obligations of marriages in the federal code for same-sex couples; repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); and affirm that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states. It also codifies the same rights for interracial couples.

In response to the final passage of the bill, HRC President Kelley Robinson issued the following statement:

“Today’s vote in the House of Representatives sends a clear message: love is winning. At a time when the LGBTQ+ community continues to face ongoing attacks – from deadly violence to legislative assaults on our rights – today’s vote is a clear victory for this country’s 568,000 same-sex married couples, including me. The fact that this bill passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers proves that marriage equality is supported by a wide swath of the American people. We eagerly await the president’s signature on this important legislation — and look forward to continuing to fight for full equality for everyone in our community, without exception.”

HRC worked tirelessly to engage our members and supporters in favor of this legislation. We mobilized 242 major businesses with over 8.5 million employees, a grassroots army of more than 3 million members, supporters and volunteers, and the nation’s 62 million “Equality Voters” to call on members of Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. HRC supporters made more than 30,400 calls and sent more than 58,000 letters to Congressional offices in support of the RMA. To read personal stories of why marriage equality remains important to LGBTQ+ couples across the country, click here, and to watch a video featuring a D.C.-based couple, click here.

More Than Two-Thirds of People Support Marriage Equality

According to Gallup, 71% of Americans support marriage for same-sex couples. 55% of Republicans support same-sex marriage, along with 83% of Democrats and 73% of Independents. According to recent polling from HRC, 64% of people living in battleground states – AZ, CA, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI, FL, NH, NC, OH, TX, CO, and ME – support marriage equality, demonstrating the issue’s popularity even in politically divided states. The latest survey from PRRI this year found that support for marriage equality has increased by 14 percentage points since 2014 (54%). 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 marriage equality. According to the last Census, about 58% (568,000) of couples in the nation’s 980,000 same-sex households were married and about 42% were unmarried partners.

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, DOMA discriminated in two important ways. First, Section 2 of DOMA purported to allow states to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples. Second, Section 3 of the law carved 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 (which invalidated Section 3) and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling (which invalidated Section 2).

  • Establishing that “place of celebration” is the standard of recognition for federal benefits of a marriage. This provision ensures that the federal government will consider a couple to be married for federal purposes if the couple’s marriage was valid in the state where it was performed.

  • Affirming that marriage-related public acts, records and proceedings of one state must be recognized by all states. Marriages, 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.

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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