Bill Passed to Protect Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.


A photo taken after Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June 2015. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

On November 29, 2022, the Respect for Marriage Act passed in the Senate. This act protects both federal and state recognition of marriages that were done legally in the states that they took place in, no matter what the laws that the state the couple is currently living in follows.
The importance of the bill might be confusing for some, as the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges passed in June of 2015 already legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. However, following the Supreme Court’s decision over the summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that had legalized abortion nationwide, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has spoke about reconsidering Obergefell v. Hodges as well.
However, this could only be done if a direct challenge of the case was brought before the Supreme Court by conservatives, and Republicans have recently shown that they are not, as a majority, as firmly against same-sex marriage as they have been in prior years. This was evident in the vote of the Respect for Marriage Act, which at 61-36 included twelve Republican Senators in favor. This change in political action was parallel to a change in public opinion. According to a Gallup poll cited by Axios, 27% of Americans supported same-sex marriage in 1997, but 71% do now, showing a staggering increase in public support for the cause. As more Americans began to find themselves in support of same-sex marriage, the political climate began to shift as a result. In previous years, the Republicans had a majority of the party taking sides against the right and had the support of the majority of the public in doing so, while the Democrats stood divided on supporting the right or following the majority of the public. Now, however, the majority of Democrats support the right, and the Republicans are divided as the public has sided against what they had originally believed.
Despite the significance of the bill in protecting the American LGBTQ+ community, it does have some limitations. For example, though it protects the recognition of legal marriages in all American states, it does not protect against states making same-sex marriage illegal to occur within their boundaries if Obergefell v. Hodges was overturned. Also, the increase in support that has been shown in recent years towards same-sex marriage has not been replicated for transgender rights, and the bill does not protect polygamous marriages, which shows that there is still progress to be made for the protection of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Additionally, the bill has been altered from what it was initially proposed to include more religious freedoms, which limits its protections of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, even if the bill goes into law, churches still have the right to deny services and accommodations for the solemnization of marriage.
Still, the bill’s significance is undeniable. As quoted by USA Today, “Through bipartisan collaboration, [members of the Senate have] crafted commonsense language to confirm that this legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality,” stated Tammy Baldwin, a Democratic Wisconsin Senator and the first openly gay person to serve in the Senate.
The Respect for Marriage Act has both passed the House of Representatives and gained President Biden’s approval. “Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” he said, as quoted by USA Today.