Historic Respect for Marriage Act passes in the House, protecting same-sex and interracial marriage


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The front of the U.S. Capitol, April 3, 2007.

Early on Thursday, the House passed legislation that will protect both same-sex and interracial marriage in the United States. This bill was recently passed in the Senate, now moving to President Joe Biden’s desk, who will likely sign the legislation into law.

The vote was 258-169-1 in the House, with 39 Republicans voting in favor of the bill, titled the “Respect for Marriage Act.”

Over the summer, an earlier version of the bill gained the support of 47 Republicans within the House. The updated version, passed on Thursday, included additional Republican-supported protections for religious liberty and faith-based non-profits.

In the previous week, the bill passed the Senate with a vote of 61-36. This included all Democrats within the Senate as well as 12 Republicans.

While this bill does not set a requirement for all states to legalize same-sex marriage, it does require individual states to recognize other states’ legal marriage regulations under federal law as valid marriages.

The Respect for Marriage Act quickly gained momentum and support after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade over the summer, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. With the passing of this bill, states will be required to honor same-sex marriages from other states, even if Obergefell v. Hodges — the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage — was overturned and a state passed a law to ban same-sex marriage within their own borders.

The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the 1996 Defense for Marriage Act (DOMA). This act, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, denied same-sex couples federal benefits and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that had been legalized in other states.

The act also officially protects interracial marriage. While interracial marriage was legalized 55 years ago by the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia, the Respect for Marriage Act officially protects it under federal law.

A bill enrollment ceremony was held by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Jerry Nadler and Sen. Susan Collins to celebrate the passage of the bill.

Pelosi, who will soon be leaving her role as Speaker of the House, said, “Once signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will help prevent right-wing extremists from upending the lives of loving couples traumatizing kids across the country, and turning back the clock on hard-won progress.” She noted that she is “particularly happy” that the act will be one of the last ones she signs in her current role.

President Biden said in a statement from earlier in the week, “For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couple and their children are entitled” He continued, saying, “I look forward to welcoming them at the White House after the House passes this legislation and sends it to my desk, where I will promptly sign it into law.”