U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, who represents the 8th District of Virginia that includes Falls Church, Tuesday led a wide bi-partisan majority in the House this week to vote for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, federal legislation to codify marriage equality protections.
The measure passed by a comfortable margin, 267-157, as every Democrat voted for it, and 47 Republicans did, as well. It now faces the prospect of passing the Senate as well, which would have the effect of overriding any future ruling by the Supreme Court in opposition.
The House held the vote in response to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence in Dobbs, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, in which Thomas urged the Supreme Court to “reconsider” its Obergefell v. Hodges ruling which established marriage equality protections in all 50 states. The vote this week protects both same-sex and interracial marriages.
The vote came days after Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin ducked questions about whether he supports codifying protections for same sex marriage in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Youngkin was asked about his stance by CBS Face The Nation Host Robert Costa, and refused to give an answer while claiming, wrongly, that the Virginia Constitution protects marriage equality.
In reality, the Virginia Constitution currently states that “only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth.” That language is currently overridden by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, but could come back in force if the Supreme Court overturned the ruling as Justice Thomas recommended.
Beyer said, “It is deeply unfortunate that we still have to debate marriage equality in the year 2022, but once that debate was thrust upon us, House Democrats took swift action to protect Americans’ freedoms. This vote was made necessary by the Supreme Court’s reactionary decision overturning Dobbs in a way that clearly undercut basic privacy rights more generally”.
He added, “Justice Thomas said the quiet part out loud by calling for the court to overturn its landmark ruling in Obergefell, and today the vast majority of House Republicans voted against codifying marriage equality. Even Governor Youngkin has refused to take a stance in defense of this basic right which is overwhelmingly popular in Virginia. It is an undeniable fact that opposition to marriage equality remains widespread among Republicans, who are wildly out of touch with the views of the American people on this issue. I look forward to additional votes to protect other basic freedoms threatened by an out-of-control right wing Court majority.”
The Respect for Marriage Act will officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a defunct and discriminatory statute excluding same-sex couples from marriage under federal law. This legislation will also codify new protections ensuring that no married couple can be denied protections and benefits under federal law based on sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.
Specifically, it would enshrine marriage equality into federal law: this legislation will require the federal government to fully recognize any marriage considered valid in the state where it was performed – providing same-sex and interracial couples additional certainty that they will continue to receive equal treatment under federal law.
It would also repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. While the Supreme Court has effectively voided the Defense of Marriage Act, this unconstitutional and discriminatory federal law still remains on the books. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal this statute once and for all.
It would bar discrimination by state officials. The legislation prohibits state officials from denying recognition of an out-of-state marriage on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.