Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act to protect interracial and same-sex marriages at federal level News
© WikiMedia Commons (White House)
Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act to protect interracial and same-sex marriages at federal level

President Biden Tuesday signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, granting federal protections to interracial and same-sex marriages. The landmark legislation passed the US Senate in November and the House of Representatives last week with strong bipartisan support. President Biden stated, “Today is a good day… a day America takes a vital step towards equality, towards liberty, justice — not just for some, but for everyone. Toward creating a nation where decency, dignity and love are recognized, honored, and protected.”

The Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government and all states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages if they were legally performed in the past or are legally performed in the future. The Act also repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman and allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The constitutional right to a same-sex or interracial marriage is currently guaranteed only by Supreme Court precedent. Every state is required to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples according to Loving v. Virginia and same-sex couples under Obergefell v. Hodges. If the Supreme Court overturns these precedents, states would be free to deny marriage licenses to same-sex or interracial couples. Justice Clarence Thomas stated that Obergefell should be re-examined in his June concurrence to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. While the Respect for Marriage Act will guarantee federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages, it also serves as a fail-safe in case the Supreme Court overturns its prior decisions.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Respect for Marriage Act is “arguably the biggest legislative win” for LGBTQ+ equality since the Obama Administration repealed the US military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.