The “Respect for Marriage Act” Would Repeal DOMA, Enshrine Marriage Equality, & Provide Legal Protections for Married Couples Across the Country
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House to protect the rights of same-sex and interracial couples.
While marriage equality remains constitutionally protected, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson could be used in the future to threaten other fundamental rights — including the right to marriage equality. In his concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly called for the Supreme Court to reconsider its decisions protecting other fundamental rights — including the right to same-sex marriage recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges. The right to interracial marriage also relies on the same constitutional doctrines as the right to same-sex marriage — therefore leaving it also vulnerable to a legal challenge.
Spanberger cosponsored and voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine marriage equality for same-sex and interracial couples as guaranteed by Obergefell vs. Hodges and Loving v. Virginia. The bill would also provide additional legal protections for marriage equality.
“Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, thousands of Virginia families have been subjected to watching their marriages now being callously questioned by prominent officials. Same-sex and interracial couples are not concepts that should be put up for debate — they are Americans to defend at a time of uncertainty,” said Spanberger. “This moment requires lawmakers to stand with the people they represent, because if decisions like Obergefell v. Hodges and Loving v. Virginia come under threat in the wake of Dobbs, the consequences could be devastating for far too many Americans — including in Virginia. Today, I proudly voted to stand with same-sex couples, interracial couples, and their loved ones —and I will take this vote 1,000 times if it means protecting these constituents and their families from discrimination.”
The Respect for Marriage Act would:
- Repeal DOMA. The Supreme Court effectively rendered the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) inert with its landmark decisions in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges. However, DOMA officially remains on the books. The bill would repeal this statute.
- Enshrine Marriage Equality for Federal Law Purposes. The bill requires, for federal law purposes, that an individual be considered married if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. This gives same-sex and interracial couples additional certainty that they will continue to receive equal treatment under federal law as all other married couples — as the Constitution requires.
- Provide Additional Legal Protections. The bill prohibits any person acting under color of state law from denying full faith and credit to an out of state marriage based on the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage, provides the Attorney General with the authority to pursue enforcement actions, and creates a private right of action for any individual harmed by a violation of this provision.
The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the U.S. House by U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10) and David Cicilline (D-RI-01). A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and Susan Collins (R-ME).