Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a final version of the Respect for Marriage Act, with a bipartisan vote of 258-169. The U.S. Senate passed the bill on November 29 with a bipartisan vote of 61-36. The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

GLAD Executive Director Janson Wu issued the following statement:

“Today’s vote is a win for equality and for the overwhelming majority of Americans across political parties and from all walks of life who support the freedom to marry and want to ensure the dignity, stability and ongoing protection that marriage provides to families and children. The Respect for Marriage Act solidifies that people’s marriages will continue to be respected by our state and federal governments regardless of race or sex.

Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges affirmed that our constitution guarantees the freedom to marry the person you love and have that marriage respected. That is the law of the land and we will defend against any challenge to it that may arise in the future. Yet at a time of escalating attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and unprecedented efforts to unravel protections for fundamental rights, this bipartisan action by Congress provides a critical backstop.

The Respect for Marriage Act provides assurance to millions of LGBTQ+ and interracial couples that no matter what, their marriages will continue to be recognized and respected by federal and state actors and government agencies wherever they live, travel, or relocate. While work remains to ensure full equality under the law in all areas of our lives, this is an important step on the road to ensuring all people are fully protected from discrimination and are free to live, work and support their families and communities. The Congress did something very important with this law and we look forward to continued work with the Congress as well as in our state and local communities to ensure the people’s concerns, our concerns are heard.

We are grateful to the House and Senate leadership and to the Respect for Marriage Act sponsors and look forward to seeing President Biden quickly sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law.”

About the Respect for Marriage Act:

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.

Learn more about the bill.