Congress Introduces Bill To Protect Same-Sex And Interracial Marriages In Response To Clarence Thomas Opinion

A group of lawmakers introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bipartisan bill that would officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and require federal recognition for interracial and same-sex marriages.

The legislation, which was announced on Monday by top House and Senate Democrats, comes in response to an opinion authored by Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last month that signaled marriage equality could be at risk.

“Three weeks ago, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court not only repealed Roe v. Wade and walked back 50 years of precedent, it signaled that other rights, like the right to same-sex marriage, are next on the chopping block,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a press statement. “If Justice Thomas’s concurrence teaches anything, it’s that we cannot let [our] guard down, or the rights and freedoms that we have come to cherish will vanish into a cloud of radical ideology and dubious legal reasoning.”

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal DOMA, a 1996 law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The bill would also require states to recognize same-sex marriages if they were valid in the states they were performed, as well as codify the landmark rulings of Windsor v. United States and Obergefell v. Hodges, which stated that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.   

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the bill’s GOP sponsor, said in a press statement that the proposed legislation builds on previous victories, such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a federal policy under the Clinton administration that prohibited LGBTQ+ people from disclosing their sexual orientation or discussing same-sex relationships in the military. Sen. Collins added that the new bill is “another step to promote equality, prevent discrimination, and protect the rights of all Americans.”

According to a 2022 LGBTQ+ policy report, statutes or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage remain present in more than 30 states, threatening marriage equality in more than half of the country should Obergefell v. Hodges be overturned.

The Respect for Marriage Act is co-led by members of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus. The House is set to vote on the legislation this week. 

“Today, we take an important step towards protecting the many families and children who rely on the rights and privileges underpinned by the constitutional guarantee of marriage equality,” Chairman Rep. Nadler said on Monday. “The Respect for Marriage Act will further add stability and certainty for these children and families.”

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