The U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed the Respect for Marriage Act last week — after the U.S. Senate voted on and passed it the week prior — and the historic legislation was signed by President Biden yesterday. This incredible achievement was by no means easy and it is worth taking a moment to reflect upon its historic significance.
In both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, this legislation enjoyed bipartisan support. Grassroots engagement and coalition building were central to building support for this legislation long before it came to a vote.
Back in September, we were both proud to sign onto a letter of more than 400 Republicans and conservatives across America who came together to call on the U.S. Senate to preserve the freedom to marry. This letter was very much built upon the success of more than 300 Republicans and conservatives who back in 2015 came together to sign and file an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage ahead of four same-sex marriage cases that would come to be known as Obergefell v. Hodges.
With the support of 12 Republicans in the U.S. Senate, 39 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and all Democrats in both chambers of Congress, this legislation ultimately reflects the will and the beliefs of the majority of the American people. Most Americans know and love family members and friends who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and want them to be able to enjoy the dignity and protection afforded by marriage.
It is worth noting that this legislation carefully took into account concerns over religious freedom. In the end, this legislation won the backing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as that of many other faith communities and traditions across the country. Respect for different beliefs when it comes to the institution of marriage is made clear in the following key passage contained within the legislation, which reads as follows,
“Diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises. Therefore, Congress affirms that such people and their diverse beliefs are due proper respect.”
It is also of the utmost importance to recognize that this legislation also provides long overdue protections for interracial marriage and that much of what has been achieved in the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights is built upon the struggles and successes in the fight for civil rights for Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans. We have no doubt that this legislation would not be possible today were it not for civil rights leaders such as Bayard Rustin, among others who forcefully and heroically advocated for dignity and equality before the law.
Ultimately, once it is signed into law by President Biden, this legislation will prove to be a monumental achievement for civil rights in this country. In these polarizing and divided times, it was refreshing and heartwarming to see members of Congress come together for such an important and much-needed defense of LGBTQ+ Americans’ rights.
We look forward to a new morning in America where all marriages are truly respected by and for all.
Sarah E. Hunt is the president of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. Charles T. Moran is the president of Log Cabin Republicans.