December 14, 2022

Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act into law

Amid much fanfare, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law at the White House on Tuesday.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill last week by 258 to 169. The bill passed the U.S. Senate the week prior by 61 to 36 votes. The bill repeals the 1995 Defense of Marriage Act, which stated that marriage is solely between a man and a woman and denied federal benefits to same sex couples.

Related: Respect for Marriage Act passes Congress: What it means for New Mexicans

The new law protects same-sex and interracial marriages by recognizing those marriages federally. The bill does not require all states to allow same sex and interracial marriage, but it requires all states to recognize those marriages if they take place in a state that allows it.

Currently, bans on same-sex or interracial marriage are blocked by prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions. But because the court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer in its Dobbs decision, there have been concerns that the court could revisit those previous rulings at some point in the future. This bill would protect same-sex and interracial marriages if the court does overturn previous rulings, which would allow states to return to placing bans.

The bill gained some Republican support when the bill’s backers agreed to allow language that enables churches, universities and nonprofit religious organizations to decline recognizing same-sex marriage. The House of Representatives passed an earlier version of the bill over the summer but Senate Republicans blocked it until December when the compromise on the bill’s language was reached.

All of New Mexico’s Congressional Democrats supported and co-sponsored the bill. The state’s lone Republican, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, who represents the second congressional district, voted against it. Herrell was defeated by former Las Cruces City Councilor and Democrat Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez in November.

Equality New Mexico Executive Director Marshall Martinez told NM Political Report that his organization is “excited.”

“We are grateful to President Biden for signing the historic Respect for Marriage Act.  This is about love, and it is about our families’ hard-won rights to have our relationships recognized.  This bill will extend protection to the children and families of LGBTQ parents and will say clearly to all queer and trans Americans that regardless of the state you live in, our federal government sees you,” he said.

Biden held a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday and spoke at length about what he called “so clear and right” and “today we celebrate our progress” as part of his message.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico issued a statement on Tuesday, saying the new law “builds on generations of civil rights advocacy.”