Understanding the Respect for Marriage Act

What does the Respect for Marriage Act actually protect?

The Respect for Marriage Act is an important protection for all kinds of marriages.


The Respect for Marriage Act is an important protection for all kinds of marriages.

Sripriya Srinivas, Columnist

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) was introduced to the House of Representatives on July 17, 2022. It passed in the Senate on Nov. 29, 2022 with a 61-36 vote. Congress states that it has not become a law, still requiring passage by the House of Representatives and signature from the President. The House of Representatives was informed of the Senate’s decision on Nov. 30, 2022. On December 9th, the House passed the RMA and presented this law to the President, who has supported LGBTQ rights in many public statements.

The RMA protects interracial and same-sex marriages while allowing religious institutions to refuse service to same-sex couples. The Hill states that “nonprofit religious organizations will not have to provide goods, services or facilities for wedding ceremonies or receptions.” According to Rutgers, the act revokes the federal Defense of Marriage Act. This means that it is now required for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages that were legalized in a state and for all states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages that are legal in other states.

The act doesn’t completely protect all marriage rights, however. It does not require all states to allow same-sex or interracial marriages and doesn’t require religious institutions to give services or goods same-sex marriage. According to the Office of Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the federal government will not be required to recognize polygamous marriages.

Obergefell v. Hodges is an important case to consider when speaking about marriage rights. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the case decided that bans on marriage equality were unconstitutional and therefore invalidated any bans on marriages. These bans cannot be enforced while Obergefell is in effect. Without the Respect for Marriage Act, an overturning of Obergefell would allow states to deny a marriage to be legal even if it was legal in another state. Many same-sex couples were worried about what could happen if Obergefell was overturned due to this danger. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, there were many fears that Obergefell would be next. The RMA gives some security to marriages that were already legalized.

The recent passing of the RMA is a milestone for the law and, if signed, will help protect interracial and same-sex marriage. The act gives some protection to interracial and same-sex couples in regards to marriage, but it is more of a safeguard from further court decisions, such as a potential overturning of Obergefell v. Hodges. Although this is a good step towards compromise on a divide in political ideologies, there is more protection needed for interracial and same-sex marriage.