Thompson Votes to Pass Respect for Marriage Act, Enshrine Marriage Equality into Law

Press Release

Posted: December 11, 2022

Washington – Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) voted to pass H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act. This legislation enshrines into federal law marriage equality for same sex and interracial couples.

“Every American deserves equal rights and equal justice, and that includes the right to marry who you love,” said Thompson. “The Respect for Marriage Act is a major victory for the values we hold most dear as Americans: freedom, dignity, and equality. When President Biden signs this bill into law, we will see equal protections for Americans to marry who they love in case the extremist Republican-controlled Supreme Court follows through on the threat to strip another fundamental freedom away.”

The Respect for Marriage Act:

  • Enshrines Marriage Equality for Federal Law Purposes: The bill requires, for federal law purposes, that an individual be considered married if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. This gives same-sex and interracial couples additional security that they will continue to enjoy equal treatment under federal law as all other married couples – as the Constitution requires.
  • Repeals the Discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act: The Supreme Court effectively rendered the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 inert with its landmark decisions in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell, holding that marriage equality was a constitutional right. This unconstitutional and discriminatory law, however, still officially remains on the books. Therefore, this bill would repeal this statute once and for all.
  • Provides Additional Legal Protections from Individuals Seeking to Undermine Marriage Equality While Acting Under Color of State Law: The bill prohibits any person acting under color of state law from denying full faith and credit to an out-of-state marriage based on the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage. The bill also provides the U.S. Attorney General with the authority to pursue enforcement actions and creates a private right of action for any individual harmed by a violation of this provision.

While marriage equality remains constitutionally protected, the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to justify overturning the right to abortion could be used in the future to threaten other fundamental rights, including the right to marriage equality. In fact, in a concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly called on the Supreme Court to reconsider its decisions protecting other fundamental rights, including the right to same-sex marriage recognized in Obergefell. And although Justice Thomas did not mention the right to interracial marriage, that right relies on the same constitutional doctrines as the right to same-sex marriage, and therefore, could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.

This bill originally passed the House on July 19 by a broad bipartisan vote. On November 28, 2022, the Senate passed H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act with an amendment affirming current law protecting all religious liberty and conscience protections and ensures that the bill does not allow the federal government to recognize polygamous unions as marriages.