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The Respect for Marriage Act: A Victory for LGBTQ+ Families Nationwide

This week, the United States Senate passed the “Respect for Marriage Act.” This is an important victory in the ongoing effort to protect the family rights of LGBTQ+ families.

What the Respect for Marriage Act does: The Act requires all states to issue marriage licenses to people who want to get married, whether regardless of whether they are a same-sex couple or a couple of two different races. It also requires states to recognize marriages that are performed in other states.

Why this matters: In 1996, Congress passed a law called the Defense of Marriage Act or “DOMA.” DOMA defined marriage exclusively as a union between one man and one woman, and it allowed states to ban same sex or polygamous marriages.

In 2013, in case called United States v. Windsor, the United States Supreme Court held that defining marriage in this was is unconstitutional.

Congress didn’t like that, so the next year, in 2014, the House of Representatives passed the State Marriage Defense Act, which said that states can refuse to recognize marriages performed in other states, if the people who married lived in the bigoted state.

The Supreme Court struck back. In the famous 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court held that states must recognize marriages performed in other states, and that refusing to license same sex marriages violates the Constitution.

One would think that would be the end of the story, but no. Obergefell’s plaintiffs won by only a 5-4 vote. That majority of justices who voted to support LGBTQ+ families are no longer on the bench, replaced by Justices who have never been friends to the LGBTQ community.

This Supreme Court overturned fifty years of precedent established by Roe v. Wade to hold that the Constitution does not federally protect the privacy rights of women to choose whether to have a baby or not. Because of the Supreme Court’s holding in Dobbs, state legislatures now can govern women’s bodies and force them to carry and give birth to an unwanted baby.

State governments jumped at the opportunity. As of October, abortion is now illegal in 13 states, with 13 more almost assuredly to ban abortion soon. Roe’s 50 years of precedent were overturned with a stroke of a man’s pen. Obergefell is only seven years old. If THIS Supreme Court overturns Obergefell on the grounds that the federal Constitution does not protect the privacy rights of same sex couples, same sex marriage would automatically become illegal in 35 states under laws that are on the books right now. Based on how Dobbs is written, that outcome seems likely.

Which is why passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is so important. The bill now travels to the House of Representatives, and if you care about privacy rights of families, we urge you to contact your representative.Don't know who your representative is? Click here to find out.

WATCH: Attorney Margaret Held's interview with WBIR on the Respect for Marriage Act

This is the time of year for good will to all people, a time to enjoy our families, to feel safe and cozy in front of a fire, without worrying about the government telling us who gets to be in the family. We all deserve equal respect for families, no matter what we look like. Standing with the LGBTQ+ community is a stand for the privacy rights of all families. Held Law Firm is proud to fight for the LGBTQ+ community. To schedule a consultation call (865) 657-6550 or for more information visit us online at