Freedom of Marriage

December 15, 2022

Respect for Marriage

A new law replaces an old one as the U.S. president signs bipartisan legislation described as "a blow against hate in all its forms."


Respect For Marriage Act

What It Doesn't Do

  • It does not make same-sex marriage the law of the land (i.e., does not “codify” it).
  • It does not force states to make same-sex marriage legal, even though a prior Supreme Court ruling affirms the right to marry whom you want. It does empower a couple to sue if they are married in one state but another state refuses to recognize their union.
  • Bottom line: It protects a right affirmed by the Supreme Court but doesn’t make it federal law. Instead, it creates a safety net in case that right is someday challenged and overturned.
"Why did Congress draw a distinction between licensing and recognizing marriages? Because it wanted to remain on firm constitutional ground … Time and again, the court has ruled that the federal government cannot 'commandeer' states to enforce federal laws or pass specific statutes."

Mark Joseph Stern, Slate. The Respect for Marriage Act was passed in the House with a 258-169 vote. All Democrats and 39 Republican lawmakers voted in favor of it.

As a senator, Pres. Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act – defining marriage between a man and a woman – in 1996. Since then, he has gradually adopted a different stance. He signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law on Tuesday.

Biden signs gay marriage law, calls it ‘a blow against hate’ (The Associated Press)

Without Obergefell, Most States Would Have Same-Sex Marriage Bans (The Pew Charitable Trusts)

by Jenna Lee,