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The Respect for Marriage Act



UPDATE: On December 13, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law. Millions of couples and their children across the country now have the assurance that their families will continue to be respected by our state and federal governments. Learn more

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act—which has already been invalidated by the Supreme Court—and get the anti-LGBTQ+ federal law off the books. It will also ensure that all state and federal governments recognize and respect a couple’s marriage, regardless of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of the couple.

The Respect for Marriage Act is narrow but mighty. It builds on Congress’s power to define federal benefits and its constitutionally express power to state “the effects” of acts, records and judicial proceedings under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. In line with Obergefell and Windsor, it requires states and state actors, and the federal government and federal actors, to respect existing marriages of same-sex couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act preempts states from using “sex, race, national origin or ethnicity” of the married pair as a basis for denying rights, protections or duties that pertain to or arise from a marriage. (sec. 4).

Almost by definition, the Congress’s concretizing this in federal law is a mighty recognition that the nation demands that marriages of same sex and interracial couples be accorded dignity and respect.  It also creates a private right of action – both for the U.S. Attorney General and for private citizens to file federal court claims and enforce the law.