Respect for Marriage Act passes House & heads to Joe Biden’s desk

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The House of Representatives has passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) in a 258-169 vote. The bill would require the federal government and state governments to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed by other states.

The bill originally passed the House in July and was then passed by the Senate on November 29. The Senate amended the bill to add some religious protections and to state that it doesn’t legalize polygamy, so the House had to pass it again with the amendment.

The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

LGBTQ+ leaders and members of Congress celebrated the law’s passage.

The RFMA “is a bipartisan triumph and a testament that love will always win in the end,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) after the bill was passed. “Thanks to our actions today, married people who are building their lives together now know that the government will continue to respect and recognize their marriages. Our work toward equality, however, is not done. We need to harness this momentum and work towards full equality for LGBTQ+ people in all areas of life, including by passing the Equality Act into law.”

“After the Dobbs decision, people across Kansas and the entire country felt fear and anxiety as many of our individual freedoms were called into question or outright stripped away,” said Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS). “I’m proud to have introduced legislation that will help lessen that fear and provide stability to so many families, and I applaud the bipartisan group of lawmakers who joined me to stand up for our rights.”

“This bill will pass today, but as a reminder of the necessity of our vigilance in the fight for human rights and the need to hold the judicial branch accountable,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) in a House floor speech. “We must rise to the challenge and we will prevail.”

The RFMA would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and require the federal government and state governments to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in other states.

Proponents of the bill say that it’s necessary now that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which shared part of its legal framework with Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision that legalized marriage equality in all 50 states in 2015. Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Court should “reconsider” Obergefell in his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe this past summer.

That is, supporters of the bill believe the Court could be coming after marriage rights next.

Opponents of the bill have said that it would end religious liberty by requiring churches to perform same-sex marriages and allow the IRS to revoke religious nonprofit organizations’ tax-exempt status if they oppose marriage equality. Neither measure is in the bill.

Other Republicans said that the bill would somehow allow child marriage, which is already legal in many states. Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) said that the RFMA violates the “biblical” definition of marriage and that it would lead to “polygamy, bestiality, child marriage, or whatever!”

In July, 269 Congress members voted for the bill, 11 more than voted for it today.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) was among the House Republicans who changed their votes. He claimed that Democrats tricked him into voting for the bill the first time around and now claims that the bill “actually literally destroys religious freedom and the ability to enforce religious freedom.”

Several Republicans said that they didn’t vote for it because they don’t believe it’s necessary.

“If it’s not necessary, then vote for it. If you’re right that we’re worried and we shouldn’t be, reaffirm it,” said Cicilline this past July. “But don’t hide behind that to justify your refusal to vote for marriage equality in this country.”

Other Republicans were more forthright with their reasoning. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said that she voted against it because she is against marriage equality.

“I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s how God created it,” Greene said before the July vote.

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