July 20, 2022

U.S. House passes equality bill, but future uncertain

Susan Dunlap

U.S. Capitol building Washington D.C. 2022

With bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to enshrine marriage equality into legislation on Tuesday by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.

The House voted 267 in favor with 157 Republicans voting no. All 220 Democrats voted in support of the repeal and 47 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with them.

H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, included protections for interracial marriage as well. It would protect marriage equality if the court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges.

But, the bill still has an uphill battle. While some House Republicans crossed the aisle, it is not clear if Senate Republicans will. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has not stated yet which way he will vote.

New Mexico Democrats in the House, U.S. House Rep. Melanie Stansbury, who represents the 1st Congressional District, and House Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, co-sponsored the bill. They both voted in support.

The U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which then-President Bill Clinton signed. It stated that marriage is between a man and woman.

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing marriage equality, DOMA became unenforceable but it remains in the federal code.

But because of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many fear that the court will soon roll back marriage equality and other rights based on bodily autonomy.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion in the Dobbs case in which he said that all prior cases that rest on the right to privacy interpretation of the Constitution should be revisited by the court. Thomas explicitly included marriage equality, among others.

Leger Fernández tweeted her support prior to the roll call vote. Stansbury tweeted after the vote, saying “we cannot allow this extreme Supreme Court majority to send us backwards.”

The White House also issued a statement on Tuesday expressing its support of the legislation.

U.S. House of Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, voted against the bill.