Jul 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Congress moves to protect marriage equality after Roe decision

Sen. Susan Collins talks with reporters.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) talks with reporters as she walks through the Senate subway on June 14. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congress will consider legislation this week to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, lawmakers announced Monday.

Why it matters: The bill is part of Congress’ legislative response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson last month overturning the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade.

  • Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas signaled in a concurring opinion in the Dobbs case that rulings on marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights and contraception could be at risk, spurring Democrats to act.
  • Last week, the House passed a bill to codify Roe, and it is also considering legislation this week to codify access to contraception.

Driving the news: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would repeal DOMA and require federal recognition for same-sex and interracial marriages.

  • It would also require states to recognize those marriages if they were valid in the states they were performed.
  • The tangible effect of the law would be to preserve state and federal benefits for these marriages if the courts opened the door for legislation prohibiting them.
  • The bill was introduced by a group of top House and Senate Democrats, as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The state of play: The bill is set to be considered by the House Rules Committee on Monday, according to a schedule sent to House offices, slating it for a vote on the floor this week.

  • “I look forward to bringing it to the floor for a vote this week,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement.
  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Axios last week that, when the legislation reaches the Senate, it will be a top priority for him.
  • But despite the bill having bipartisan support from the outset, it’s unclear whether it will garner the GOP votes needed to bypass a filibuster: More than 20 GOP senators declined to stake out positions on the issue in interviews with Axios.

What they’re saying: DOMA was rendered inert by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, but lawmakers say taking the law off the books altogether is a necessary post-Roe move.

  • “If Justice Thomas’ concurrence teaches anything it’s that we cannot let your guard down or the rights and freedoms that we have come to cherish will vanish into a cloud of radical ideology and dubious legal reasoning,” said House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a statement.
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