Edit 12/13/22: The Respect for Marriage Act has been signed into law by President Biden. The bill has been updated since its initial short text, but in exchange for narrower definitions has passed with a filibuster-proof majority needed to enshrine the rights into law.
- RFMA officially repeals DOMA and codifies protections for same-sex and interracial marriage
- It does not codify Obergefell and Loving supreme court cases — if those rights are taken away in future Supreme Court cases, states can ban same-sex or interracial marriage (but a valid marriage in a state that does recognize these marriages will be valid across the entire United States, and at the federal level)
- There’s a section explicitly calling out religious freedom, but that’s already the status quo (religious nonprofits are not required to provide goods & services for all marriages)
For the first time in the US, guaranteeing the right to interracial marriage and same-sex marriage at the federal level is within reach. This is thanks to the Respect For Marriage Act (RFMA), a bill introduced into Congress that passed the House with considerable bipartisan support on July 17th, 2022. As of the time this is published, it still needs to be brought up for a vote in the Senate. My sincere wish is to see the RFMA passed with a filibuster-proof majority and signed into law as soon as is feasible.
Three things below: what’s the bill, why it matters, and what you can do to help get it passed.
Here’s the bill and key components: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/8404/text
- Can’t deny the validity of a marriage between 2 people “on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals”
- If you legally get married in one state, your marriage is recognized as valid across the entire United States
- Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed (so if the Supreme Court does try and overturn Obergefell, which de-facto removed DOMA, the antiquated law is no longer on the books)
This matters because the current Supreme Court has showed a surprising willingness to overturn previously-granted rights and freedoms in the United States. It’s a good reminder that there exist 3 branches of government for a reason, and the Legislative branch can flex its power to enshrine the rights by which we, the citizens of the United States, wish to enshrine as a society.
- The right to interracial marriage at the federal level is protected by a Supreme Court decision (Loving v. Virginia, in 1967) that ties its protection to the 14th amendment
- The right to same-sex marriage/LGBTQ marriage is protected by a Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015) that ties its protection to the 14th amendment
- In the Dobbs decision that overturned 50 years of Roe. v Wade‘s ruling on the constitutional right to an abortion, Justice Thomas added an extreme concurring position where he called for reevaluation of many past decisions (including Obergefell)
Here’s what you can do to help get it passed:
- Are your Senators a clear “Yes” on the bill?
- Reach out and make sure this is priority legislation for them to get onto the Senate floor.
- Are your Senators a soft “Yes”, or perhaps a “Maybe/Uncertain” on the bill?
- Reach out and make it clear that you strongly support passing the RFMA, and that this is a top issue when you’re considering who to vote for in the next election.
- Are your Senators an explicit “No” on the bill?
- Reach out and voice your displeasure that your Senator, in this day and age, doesn’t believe their constituents who are in an interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, and/or the progeny of such a union deserve to exist. If you were planning on voting for them in the next election, reconsider your options.
- If you know any of the Senators personally, reach out through the best channel you know
- If not, here’s an easy way to reach out:
- Look up your Senators online
- Call or send an email (there’s usually an option for both)
- The message can be short, as long as it has the key components: your position on this bill, emphasis that it’s an important issue to you as a voter, and the hope that the Senator will help get this bill passed fast.
Finally, I want to note that the RFMA isn’t perfect. For example, it stops short of guaranteeing the right to get married in any state for interracial and same-sex couples (currently protected by Loving and Obergefell). But as the old saying goes, perfect should not be the enemy of good. This is a major step in the right direction, and the RFMA’s passage will safeguard us against those who would otherwise pry into others’ private business and seek to prevent them from loving who they love.