A Landmark Step Toward Equality: Human Rights Campaign Celebrates Senate Passage of Bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act
Vote Passed 61-36, with Democrats and 12 Republicans Supporting;
Bill Expected to Be Adopted in House and Signed by President Biden
WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — today celebrated the bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill passed 61 to 36, garnering a strong bipartisan vote with Senate Democrats and 12 Republicans voting in favor, marking a truly historic moment for LGBTQ+ equality as the biggest federal legislative win since the 2010 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. This legislation will guarantee the federal rights, benefits and obligations of marriages in the federal code for same-sex couples; repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); and affirm that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states. It also codifies the same rights for interracial couples. The amended bill is expected to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed by President Biden.
In response to the bill’s passage, HRC President Kelley Robinson issued the following statement:
“Today love won. This is a historic day, marking a much-needed victory for our community. The LGBTQ+ community has faced ongoing deadly violence, legislative assaults and constant threats – including the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs barely one week ago. Today, 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. We are closing this discriminatory chapter of our history — marriage equality is here to stay. And this is just the beginning — we have more work to do to fight with and for our transgender community, , our BIPOC community, and our youngest community members with the same passion and energy that we brought to the fight for marriage equality.”
These 12 votes demonstrate that even Republican lawmakers know marriage equality is — and must remain — law of the land. It also proves that marriage equality — which the latest survey from Gallup shows seven in ten Americans (71%) support — enjoys bipartisan popular support as a fundamental right that cannot be rolled back and must be protected.
HRC worked tirelessly to engage our members and supporters in favor of this legislation. We mobilized 242 major businesses with over 8.5 million employees, a grassroots army of more than 3 million members, supporters and volunteers, and the nation’s 62 million “Equality Voters” to call on the Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. HRC supporters made more than 30,400 calls and sent more than 58,000 letters to Senate offices in support of the RMA. To read personal stories of why marriage equality remains important to LGBTQ+ couples across the country, click here, and to watch a video featuring a D.C.-based couple, click here.
More Than Two-Thirds of People Support Marriage Equality
According to Gallup, 71% of Americans support marriage for same-sex couples. 55% of Republicans support same-sex marriage, along with 83% of Democrats and 73% of Independents. According to recent polling from HRC, 64% of people living in battleground states – AZ, CA, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI, FL, NH, NC, OH, TX, CO, and ME – support marriage equality, demonstrating the issue’s popularity even in politically divided states. The latest survey from PRRI this year found that support for marriage equality has increased by 14 percentage points since 2014 (54%). Today, majorities of most religious groups favor marriage equality. White evangelical Protestants (35%) and Latter-day Saints (46%) remain the only major religious groups with less than majority support for marriage equality. According to the last Census, about 58% (568,000) of couples in the nation’s 980,000 same-sex households were married and about 42% were unmarried partners.
Key Provisions of the Bill
The Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that marriage equality is protected nationally through several provisions:
- Repealing the 1990s era Defense of Marriage Act. Passed in 1996, DOMA discriminated in two important ways. First, Section 2 of DOMA purported to allow states to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples. Second, Section 3 of the law carved all same-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, out of all federal statutes, regulations and rulings applicable to all other married people — thereby denying them over 1,100 federal benefits and protections. DOMA was rendered unenforceable, in two stages, by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor v. United States ruling (which invalidated Section 3) and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling (which invalidated Section 2).
- Establishing that “place of celebration” is the standard of recognition for federal benefits of a same-sex marriage. This provision ensures that the federal government will consider a couple to be married for federal purposes if the couple’s marriage was valid in the state where it was performed.
- Affirming that marriage-related public acts, records and proceedings of one state must be recognized by all states. Marriages, adoption orders, divorce decrees and other public acts must be honored by all states consistent with the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.