The US House of Representatives Tuesday passed a bill that would enshrine same-sex marriage in federal law. The Respect for Marriage Act passed by a vote of 267-157 amid concern that the Supreme Court could move to overturn the case protecting same-sex marriage, since it is based on the same legal principle as the now-overturned Roe v. Wade.
The bill aims to ensure that individuals retain their right to marriage even if the Supreme Court repeals Obergefell v. Hodges or Loving v. Virginia, landmark cases which struck down laws banning same-sex marriage and interracial marriage respectively. Specifically, the bill repeals a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act allowing states to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The bill goes on to state that no state can deny any individual the right to marry on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or national origin. Should any state refuse to recognize same-sex or interracial marriages, the bill authorizes the Department of Justice to pursue civil action against them.
As it currently stands, the Supreme Court requires states to recognize individual’s right to same-sex marriage under Obergefell. In 2015 the court found a right to same-sex marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause—the very same clause that previously protected an individual’s right to an abortion under Roe. The court also found a right to interracial marriage under the same clause in the case of Loving v. Virginia. Following the court’s decision to overturn Roe in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, same-sex marriage advocates began sounding the alarm. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas signaled that the Dobbs decision meant the court should reconsider its decision in Obergefell.
The bill now heads to the US Senate, where several senators have already signaled their support. A bipartisan group of senators Tuesday introduced a version of the Respect for Marriage Act to the floor.