Same-Sex Marriages Are Now Federally Protected by Law 

The Defense of Marriage Act is dead.

Back in the good old days of 2015, the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges brought same-sex marriage to all of America. It was a very good day, one when the protest Flag of Equal Marriage became identical with the American flag, and thus was no longer necessary.1

The issue seemed to be decided, until a much more conservative 2022 Supreme Court trashed decades of precedent to overturn Roe v. Wade. This decision led to extremely valid fears that marriage equality might be lost in the future. President Biden astutely warned that Justice Clarence Thomas “explicitly called to reconsider the right of marriage equality, the right of couples to make their choices on contraception. This is an extreme and dangerous path the Court is now taking us on.”

Yesterday, the president was able to sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law. Briefly, it requires the federal goverment to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages as legal, regardless of what the Supreme Court does. NPR notes:

If the Court were to overturn Obergefell, the legality of same-sex marriages would revert to state law — and the majority of states would prohibit it. The Respect for Marriage Act wouldn’t change that, but it requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and federally recognizes these marriages.

The new law means that while places like Arkansas and North Dakota may not themselves permit same-sex marriages to be performed, they would be required to recognize those marriages when performed in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey. Though far from perfect, this is an important improvement. Progress is seldom a straight line forward. Unfortunately, we may still see regressions in the future. But marriage equality protections are stronger today than they were before this law was passed, and that’s something to celebrate.


Footnotes:

  1. Indeed, at some point since, the site broke. You can click to see an archived version of the final look. If Obergefell is indeed overturned, it may need to be resurrected. ↩︎