Same-Sex Marriage Rights Buoyed by House Bill

Author: David B. Weisenfeld

July 20, 2022

Same-sex marriage protections would be guaranteed nationwide with additional legal safeguards under a bill passed by the House of Representatives.

The Respect for Marriage Act is a direct response to the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling last month that reversed Roe v. Wade. The House voted 267-157, with 47 Republicans joining Democrats in support.

The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. And just two years ago, the Court ruled 6-3 that employers may not fire an individual merely for being gay or transgender in Bostock v. Clayton County.

But writing a concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas called those decisions into question when he urged the Court to revisit the same-sex marriage ruling as well as another case dealing with contraception. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Dobbs was limited to abortion. But many observers remain unconvinced.

The House bill's additional protections include:

  • Ensuring that all states recognize public acts, records and judicial proceedings for out-of-state marriages;
  • Giving the attorney general the authority to pursue enforcement actions if they do not;
  • Reiterating federal protections for interracial marriages; and
  • Fully repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being a union between a man and a woman, as unconstitutional.

In a statement, the White House strongly supported passage of the bill. "No person should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love, and every married couple in the United States deserves the security of knowing that their marriage will be defended and respected," the administration said.

While passage is not assured in the Senate because of the filibuster rule (requiring 60 votes to stop debate on a bill and bring the matter to a vote), the bipartisan vote in the House sends a sign that passage is possible.

The Respect for Marriage Act does not address the Supreme Court's Bostock ruling, but its passage into federal law would make it much less likely that the Court would overturn that 2020 ruling providing protection to LGBTQ employees.