House lawmakers introduced legislation Monday that would enshrine some protections for same-sex marriage and interracial marriage in federal law—which they plan to vote on later this week—as marriage equality faces new threats.
House Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Actwhich repels the Defense of Marriage Act that allowed states not to recognize same-sex marriages before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
The legislation was introduced in light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which raised the possibility it could overturn its ruling on same-sex marriage next.
The bill requires states to recognize marriages that took place legally in other states or jurisdictions regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”
That means states can’t declare same-sex marriages or interracial marriages invalid even if they’re outlawed in that state, as long as the marriage took place legally in the state where it was performed.
The bill also protects marriage equality under federal law by saying any laws that involve someone’s marital status recognize the marriage as valid as long as it was legal in the state or territory where it was performed.
If the Supreme Court does overturn same-sex marriage, marriages that took place while it was still legal would be protected, as the bill states that the validity of a marriage is based only on what the laws were at the time the marriage took place and so can’t be nullified retroactively.
What To Watch For
The House will vote on the Respect for Marriage Act this week, House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Monday, and Punchbowl News reports a vote could take place as soon as Tuesday. It's unclear how the bill will fare in the Senate, however, where it would need support from at least 10 Republican lawmakers to pass. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has sponsored the bill in the Senate—calling it "another step to promote equality, prevent discrimination, and protect the rights of all Americans"—but it's unclear if any other Republicans will throw their support behind it.
“During Pride Month, Justice [Clarence] Thomas announced to the world his crusade to overturn the privacy, intimacy, and marriage equality of the LGBTQ community," Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15), who co-chairs the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, said in a statement Monday. "As we continue to see attacks on fundamental rights from the Court, it is clearer than ever that we must use every tool at our disposal to protect marriage equality."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested on Saturday that the Supreme Court should overturn its precedent on same-sex marriage, arguing it was "clearly wrong when it was decided." "Obergefell, like Roe v. Wade, ignored two centuries of our nation's history," Cruz said on his podcast The Cloakroomadding he believed the court was "overreaching."
Marriage equality has come under threat in light of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which declared the landmark 1973 ruling "egregiously wrong" because the right to an abortion is not expressly stated in the Constitution or "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition." The court's decision in Obergefel v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, is one of a number of major rulings that's based on similar legal grounds as Roe, raising fears that the court will overturn marriage equality next under similar reasoning. Thomas suggested as much in his concurrence on the opinion overturning Roe, arguing Obergefell and other rulings that uphold the rights to birth control and same-sex relations are "erroneous" and the court has "a duty to 'correct the error' established in those precedents." Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage, is also based on similar legal grounds and could be under threat, though Thomas—who is himself in an interracial marriage—did not single out that ruling. Prior to the Obergefell ruling, 35 states had bans on same-sex marriage in their state constution or state law, according to to the Pew Research Trust, which could take effect again if the decision is overturned.
Clarence Thomas: Court Should Reconsider Gay Marriage, Birth Control Decisions Next After Overturning Roe (Forbes)
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