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Respect for Marriage Act


Respect for Marriage Act

This past week, H.R. 8404 – Respect for Marriage Act – was signed into federal law. Whereas issues such as interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) and same sex marriage (United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015)) were declared lawful per the prior justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, it was not statutory law. After Justice Thomas this past year indicated that the Court should review case law concerning contraceptives, privacy, and same sex marriage, the U.S. Congress took action to preserve the right to marriage, plus repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (prior statutory law indicating marriage was between a man and a woman, which was overruled in Windsor).

Here, Congress preserved in law its findings that “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. . . . [That] diverse beliefs are due proper respect. . . . [and that prior marriages consisting of] [m]illions of people, including interracial and same-sex couples, have entered into marriages and have enjoyed the rights and privileges associated with marriage. Couples joining in marriage deserve to have the dignity, stability, and ongoing protection that marriage affords to families and children.” Where the law recognizes religious liberties as a part of the balance, it ensures that such interracial and same-sex marriages shall be recognized and honored on the same scale.

Under the law, states must honor marriages that may have been entered into across state lines, and that the legal benefits that arise under such a marriage are not to be denied (ex: rights of a spouse from a deceased spouse’s estate).

This is a major step by the legislature in preserving fundamental rights, and should be celebrated.

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