Metro Weekly

LGBTQ Groups Hail Senate Passage of Respect for Marriage Act

LGBTQ groups praise passage of "must-pass" bill, even while lamenting some of its limitations.

A lesbian wedding – Photo: Sofia Hernandez, via Unsplash.

LGBTQ groups were ecstatic and effusive in their praise for lawmakers after the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act by a 61-36 vote on Tuesday. 

The bill, which now must be approved by the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives prior to the end of the year, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and requires the federal government, and individual states, to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in the 15 states without laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex nuptials. 

While the bill is currently not necessary due to the binding nature of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, which struck down all existing state-level bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, the proposed law would serve as a failsafe for same-sex couples worried about the possibility of the high court’s six conservative justices reversing the outcome of Obergefell.

The bill has also garnered plenty of critics from the left side of the political spectrum, who are repelled by its provisions allowing individual states to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the event of a high court reversal. But most LGBTQ groups backed the legislation as an important step, and the only realistic way to garner a sufficient number of votes in favor of it, especially in the more conservative U.S. Senate.

“Today love won. This is a historic day, marking a much-needed victory for our community,” Kelley Robinson, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “With the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate — a historic moment that marks the first federal legislative win for LGBTQ+ equality in over ten years, since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — the 568,000 same-sex married couples in this country can breathe a sigh of relief that their marriages will be protected from future attacks.

“The fact that this bill passed with strong bipartisan support — earning the votes of  12 Republicans — again demonstrates that marriage equality enjoys growing bipartisan backing, is supported by a wide swath of the American people and is not going anywhere,” Robinson added. “We are closing this discriminatory chapter of our history — marriage equality is here to stay.”

Kierra Johnson, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, also praised Senate lawmakers and urged the House to swiftly pass the Senate version of the bill and send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature into law.

“While marriage equality remains the law of the land, this legislation will enshrine in federal law respect for our marriages and families,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is a key step on the way to this bill becoming law. The House must now vote on this bill in order to send it to the President’s desk.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said the vote shows that political leaders are capable of supporting commonsense legislation that affirms the dignity of LGBTQ families, and called on Congress to take similar action by bringing the Equality Act, a bill to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in various aspects of daily life.

“This vote also shows that our leaders, regardless of political affiliation, can get behind common-sense legislation that moves our country forward and affirms all families,” she tweeted. “But our work is not done: Congress must bring the Equality Act to a vote.”

“Today’s victory is a shining example of how far we’ve come towards fully accepting and celebrating love, family, and the freedom to be our authentic selves,” Hannah Willard, the vice president of government affairs at Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “The Respect for Marriage Act will provide clarity and stability for hundreds of thousands of same-sex and interracial couples who are connected through the commitment of marriage. The momentum for the Respect for Marriage Act mirrors the overwhelming support for equal treatment for LGBTQ people among a supermajority of Americans. It is a clear indication that there is a promising pathway to bipartisan legislative agreement on issues that affect basic protections for all Americans and their families.”

Fran Hutchins, the executive director of Equality Federation, also praised the bipartisan Senate vote as a “step” towards protecting LGBTQ families but warned that LGBTQ legal protections in other areas of life are far from settled.

“It is difficult to simply celebrate the RMA’s passage when we are mere days from the latest violent shooting of LGBTQ+ people in one of our safe gathering spaces, this time at Club Q in Colorado Springs,” Hutchins said in a statement. “The stage for violence such as this is set when extremist candidates for office demonize the existence of transgender people in campaign ads and speeches, when the media is willing to use our lives as a topic to be debated in order to get clicks and views, and when legislators argue whether transgender youth can access lifesaving healthcare and play sports — all for political gain. Our community does not feel safe. More has to be done to protect our lives.”

Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, praised the Senate vote and acknowledged the role that out lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and out bisexual Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) played in crafting the eventual compromise language on religious liberty protections that ultimately won the support of 12 Republican senators. 

“Representation is power. Despite lacking equitable representation, our LGBTQ congressional delegation consistently punches above their weight,” Parker said in a statement. “We aren’t always the loudest, we aren’t always the most visible, but we have the grit and thick skins to fight the hardest.”

Parker praised Baldwin specifically, calling her “a true political juggernaut” who “has solidified her place as one of the greatest LGBTQ leaders of all time.”

“The personal conversations she had behind closed doors with reluctant colleagues certainly changed hearts and minds and led to today’s result,” Parker added. 

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, hailed the legislation as a “must-pass bill.”

“One-third of LGBTQ Americans live in the South and, without federal protections, are vulnerable to state-level political attacks seeking to roll back the freedom to marry. The South makes the case for why we urgently need this federal law — all of our families deserve respect and dignity, regardless of the state we live in,” she said in a statement.

“Support for the Respect for Marriage Act from senators and representatives across the political spectrum and throughout the South mirrors what we’re seeing on the ground: Ever-growing public support for LGBTQ equality,” added Beach-Ferrara. “Also true is the fact that our work continues, and we will push harder than ever to secure full protections for LGBTQ people under the law and to defeat the relentless attacks on transgender youth playing out across the country.”

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