The Respect for Marriage Act received bipartisan support, but few stories have explained what the bill actually does, and just as importantly does not do.
RFMA will officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act if it passes the Senate and is signed into law by President Joe Biden.
DOMA, as it was called, was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. It passed the house 342-67. Sixty-five Democrats, one Republican and one independent voted no. In the Senate it passed 85-14. Biden voted for DOMA at the time.
DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and gave states the ability to not recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
The law also defined marriage like this: “the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”
Even though it was mostly ruled unconstitutional in 2013 in the United States v. Windsor the law still remained on the books.
Now Democrats and LGBT activists are pushing for same-sex marriage to be codified in federal law ever since the Supreme Court overruled the constitutional right to an abortion in June. Meanwhile Justice Clarence Thomas added to their concerns since his concurring opinion called for decisions in favor of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights to be revisited — alarming LGBT activists and Democrats.
“Justice Thomas urged the court to overturn its rulings establishing a fundamental constitutional right to use contraception, the right of same-sex couples to marry, and a right to form intimate sexual relationships with other consenting adults,” according to an article from the ACLU.
RFMA though would also force states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
“If the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, which established that the fundamental right to marry covers same-sex couples, the Respect for Marriage Act would not stop any state from once again refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” according to the ACLU. “The federal government would still be required to respect same-sex couples’ already-existing marriages, as would other states in many circumstances. But a state that wanted to get out of the business of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples would not violate the Respect for Marriage Act.”
So if the Supreme Court overturns same-sex marriage, it would automatically become illegal again in Florida where a ban is enshrined in the state constitution.
As for public support — in June Gallup released a poll showing 71% of Americans supporting same-sex marriage — a record high. In 2020 that support stood at 70% — also a record at the time.
RFMA has already passed the house 267–157 with 47 Republicans voting in favor.