Marriage equality must be codified into U.S. law

Congress must pass the Respect for Marriage Act

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Justin Surgent / Daily Collegian (2014).

By Juliette Perez, Collegian Columnist

The Respect for Marriage Act is a bill that would codify protections for same-sex marriage. It would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which described marriage as the “union between a man and a woman” and allowed states to refuse to recognize marriages from other states. Despite being deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, this legislation is still in effect.

The push for the RMA came in June after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. Along with this decision, Justice Clarence Thomas urged the high court examine and overturn rulings that establish fundamental rights such as same-sex marriage and the right to use contraception.

The prospect of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court even deliberating the overturn of these basic rights has left millions of Americans feeling that their rights are under threat.

According to a Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans support marriage equality. In the United States Senate and House, there is bipartisan support of marriage equality. Not long ago, same-sex marriage rights were a divisive issue, often avoided altogether by lawmakers. This population and bipartisan shift in support over the past years signifies significant progress both culturally and politically towards protecting the LGBTQ community in the U.S., and ultimately all Americans.

In July, the RMA passed in the House, with 47 Republican House members joining all Democratic members to advance the bill. Since then, there have been bipartisan amendments made to the RMA to secure Republican support crucial for its advancement. The amendments mainly focused on ensuring that religious liberty would be protected, a concern many Republicans continue to have.

On Nov. 16, the Senate voted to advance the RMA in a 62-37 vote. It is expected that the bill will make its final passage from the Senate this week. If so, it will then return to the House for approval of the amended version, after which it will head to President Joe Biden’s desk where it will be officially signed into law.

Many people, especially Republicans, have been speculating whether codifying marriage equality is necessary. Some argue that same-sex marriage rights are not under threat and there is no need for immediate action and effort to defend these rights.

This past summer when Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was questioned on his stance on the Respect for Marriage Act, he described the bill as a “waste of time on a non-issue.” He later claimed, “I know plenty of gay people in Florida that are pissed off about gas prices.”

Rubio voted against advancing the bill earlier this month, as he has long maintained that regulation of marriage should be up to state and local governments, not the federal government.

Whether people believe that same-sex marriage rights are under threat or not should not be a deciding factor in whether the RMA will be passed, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine made the point that despite the varying perceptions of level of threat, “there is still value in ensuring that our federal laws reflect that same-sex and interracial couples have the right to have their marriages recognized regardless of where they live in this country.”

Despite massive progress being made in emphasizing the importance of marriage equality rights, to many Republican lawmakers this issue remains untouchable. As many GOP members maintain a conservative base, it becomes a choice between angering their conservative base and potentially losing essential support or alienating their moderate and independent supporters.

In this time of uncertainty, we must maintain our momentum of progress towards absolute protection and acceptance of LGBTQ Americans. An incredibly important step is passing the RMA and codifying marriage equality, although we can’t stop there. Over the past two years, legislation was passed that has directly impacted the livelihood of primarily transgender and non-binary people in the U.S, limiting their accessibility to healthcare and creating barricades with regard to updating their identity documents. Violent and hateful attacks on the LGBTQ community persist today; only a week ago, a mass shooting occurred at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. Congress must prioritize the protection of the LGBTQ community and hold those who participate in the active discrimination members of the community face accountable.

 

Juliette Perez can be reached at [email protected]