The Respect For Marriage Act, Explained

The historic legislation would require states to recognize marriages performed legally in other states. States would still decide who can get married within their borders.

Written by Hudson Crozier

What happened: The Senate passed the Respect For Marriage Act, sending it to the House of Representatives, where there are enough Democrat and Republican supporters for it to pass. It will then be sent to the president's desk to be signed into law.

What the bill does: It provides some federal protection for gay and interracial couples’ marriages in the event that the Supreme Court overturns its previous same-sex marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges. The bill requires states to recognize the same-sex marriage of a couple that was married in a state where such a union is legal. States would still set the rules for who can get married within their borders.

Religious liberty concerns: Conservative legal experts claim the bill would open up religious organizations that oppose gay marriage to discrimination lawsuits or loss of tax-exempt status. Republicans added amendments addressing these concerns, but some say they are too vague to truly protect religious liberty.

Constitutional issue: The Supreme Court ruled against the anti-same-sex Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, saying that Congress isn’t allowed to define marriage under the Constitution. The Respect For Marriage Act could face a similar fate.

A rift in the conservative community: Evangelist Franklin Graham and Catholic bishops opposed the legislation over religious liberty concerns, and National Review argued against legalizing same-sex marriage for its societal effects. But the Mormon church, the New York Post, and more on the right see it as a peaceful compromise.

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