Respect for Marriage Act is not a win for LGBTQ community


Ted Eytan | Flickr

Natalie Cardona

The LGBTQ community deserves more protection than the Respect for Marriage Act will provide.

In a show of bipartisanship, the Senate passed legislation that will provide federal protection for same-sex and interracial marriages. It will likely be signed into law before the end of this year.

The bill will require all states to recognize legal marriages from other states, while also guaranteeing the rights and privileges associated with marriage to same-sex and interracial couples.

The bill comes off the heels of the Supreme Court’s shocking overturn of Roe v. Wade. Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion encouraged the Supreme Court to overturn other decisions, causing LGBTQ activists and Democrats to push for the codification of Obergefell v Hodges, a 2015 Supreme Court case that mandated states recognize and license same-sex marriage.

The bill relieves anxiety for many ahead of an upcoming Supreme Court case that revolves around LGBTQ rights. The Supreme Court began hearings for 303 Creative LLC. v Elenis on Dec 5.

Should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell, same-sex couples will be forced to rely on the protections provided by the Respect for Marriage Act.

At first glance, the Respect for Marriage Act seems to be a major win for the LGBTQ community. But after closer examination, it becomes evident that this legislation promises minimal protections, omitting several key protocols to ensure support from House Republicans.

It guarantees federal recognition, but does not prohibit individual states from banning same-sex marriages. If Obergefell is overturned, marriage bans in 35 states will go into effect.

The Respect for Marriage Act ensures protection for those who are already married. But it does not ensure marriage equality across the United States.

“Same-sex couples residing in states that do not of their own accord recognize the legality of their marriages would have to go to the trouble and expense of traveling to a state that does in order to receive full recognition in their home state,” Cornell Law Professor Michael Dorf said.

Alterations to the bill meant to appease GOP congress members have ground away at its integrity. The religious freedom amendment, for instance, provides religious groups with strong protections if they refuse services to couples they do not approve of.

“This act does not respect the LGBTQ community, our marriages, our relationships or our families,” Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court same-sex marriage case, said.

“This is not respect for marriage,” he added. “This would take us back to a time where we are second-class citizens who are given something that isn’t marriage, isn’t respect and protected and offered equally to every person in this country.”