On Tuesday, the House passed a bill to protect homosexual marriage as a response to an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last month that called for reversing multiple decisions that granted LGBT rights on a federal level.
The bill, titled the Respect for Marriage Act, passed in a 267-157 vote with 47 Republicans joining all Democrats in supporting it. The measure has to pass a 50-50 Senate, and 10 Republicans would need to support the bill in order for it to reach President Biden’s desk.
The Bill calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996. it recognized marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and referred to the word spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”
DOMA passed through both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
If passed by the Senate, the RFMA would require that individuals are considered married as long as they are wed in a state where same-sex marriage was legal. The House Judiciary Committee claims that the legislation ensures that same-sex and interracial couples are treated as equally as other married individuals at the federal level.
It would also give the attorney general authority to launch civil action against any individual who violates it. Any individual can take civil action if their rights as laid out in the bill are breached.
The passage of the bill comes less than one month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a landmark ruling. Justice Thomas, in his concurring opinion, brought up the possibility of revisiting other cases that set certain rights. He called on the Supreme Court to “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous,” we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents.”
Lawrence v. Texas was the 2003 case that barred states from outlawing consensual gay sex, and Obergefell v. Hodges was the 2015 ruling that made same-sex marriage a constitutional right. Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that the Constitution protected the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on contraception.
Thomas then continues, “After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.”
However, Justice Samuel Alito said in the majority opinion that by striking down Roe, the bench was not calling for reversing other rulings.
In a speech on the house floor, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., called on the House to “reaffirm that marriage equality is and must remain the law of the land,” adding that it “is and should forever be considered settled law.”
He specifically pointed to Thomas’ concurring opinion.
“Even if we accept the court’s assurance in Dobbs that its decision does not call other rights into question, Congress should provide additional reassurance that marriage equality is a matter of settled law,” Nadler said.
“All married people who are building their lives together must know that the government will respect and recognize their marriages for all time,” he added.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., a constitutional law attorney, said the legislation was “fearmongering,” citing Alito’s comments in the majority opinion.
“We live in an extraordinarily divided time, and reopening this policy, which is under no threat of any legislative or judicial body anywhere, seems more like an attempt by Democrats to stoke fear before the November elections rather than bring the country together,” Johnson said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, argued that the bill was the “latest installment” of an attempt by Democrats in the House to “delegitimize and attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court.”
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