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Pols, Activists, Allies Laud Respect for Marriage Act Passage

Jennifer Pizer and David Cicilline
From left: Jennifer Pizer and David Cicilline courtesy of the subjects

Beyond protecting marriage equality, though, more needs to be done to assure equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, they say.

LGBTQ+ politicians, civil rights activists, and allies are thrilled with the U.S. Senate's passage Tuesday of the Respect for Marriage Act, which will write marriage equality into federal law and protect it from being rescinded by the Supreme Court.

The House of Representatives has already approved the bill, but since the Senate amended it with a religious freedom provision, it has to go back to the House for another vote. If the House OK's it, it will go to President Joe Biden, who had pledged to sign it into law.

Those who praised the Senate vote also noted that there is more to do for LGBTQ+ rights, such as passing the Equality Act, which would guarantee equal rights nationwide, and protecting transgender Americans. A sample of statements released after the vote:

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign: "Today love won. This is a historic day, marking a much-needed victory for our community. The LGBTQ+ community has faced ongoing deadly violence, legislative assaults and constant threats - including the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs barely one week ago. Today, with the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate -- a historic moment that marks the first federal legislative win for LGBTQ+ equality in over ten years, since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell -- the 568,000 same-sex married couples in this country can breathe a sigh of relief that their marriages will be protected from future attacks. The fact that this bill passed with strong bipartisan support -- earning the votes of 12 Republicans -- again demonstrates that marriage equality enjoys growing bipartisan backing, is supported by a wide swath of the American people and is not going anywhere. We are closing this discriminatory chapter of our history -- marriage equality is here to stay. And this is just the beginning -- we have more work to do to fight with and for our transgender community, , our BIPOC community, and our youngest community members with the same passion and energy that we brought to the fight for marriage equality."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis: "Today's bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the U.S. Senate sends a message of equal protection, dignity, and respect for all same-sex and interracial couples who want to share in the love and commitment of marriage. As so many LGBTQ people face uncertainty and harm on the state level and extremists on the Supreme Court vow to reconsider the landmark Obergefell decision, this victory will provide comfort and security to millions of people and their families. This vote also shows that our leaders, regardless of political affiliation, can get behind common sense legislation that moves our country forward and affirms all families. But our work is not done: Congress must bring the Equality Act to a vote, which would prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in nearly every area of life."

Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project: "By enshrining the freedom to marry into federal law, this legislation sends a powerful message to LGBTQ families and young people across the nation that you can love who you love with equal protection under the law. We are incredibly thankful to see the bipartisan collaboration that made the Respect for Marriage Act a reality. Bipartisan supermajorities of the general public -- nationwide and in every state -- support marriage equality. It's time to see our country's laws take another step toward reflecting our nation's values. Today demonstrates that the freedom to marry, like all LGBTQ issues, is about people, not politics. And when we work together to implement policies that support LGBTQ communities, we are collectively building a more affirming and accepting society for our LGBTQ friends, family members, and neighbors -- and ultimately, all of us."

Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer C. Pizer: "Today we are witness to the imminent final erasure of the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has been an ugly stain on our federal statute books since 1996. Key parts of that hurtful law haven't been enforceable since 2013 thanks to our prior, much more fair-minded U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling in United States v. Windsor. And state bans on same-sex couples marrying have been unenforceable since that Court's 2015's Obergefell v. Hodges decision. But even if largely dormant since Obergefell, those marriage bans still live on the books in many states. With the current extremist orientation of the Court raising concerns that Obergefell may be next on the Court's hit list, married same-sex couples have faced the possibility that their marriages would once again be recognized in one state, but not another.

"The Respect for Marriage Act addresses that concern. While not perfect, this legislation ensures marriages solemnized validly anywhere in these United States are valid everywhere in our country without government discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. We applaud the bipartisan group that understood the urgency and worked hard to find the path to mitigate the harms in case the Court were to take the outrageous, discriminatory step of erasing the fundamental right to marry. And because anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains widespread and harmful, we will need the Equality Act to follow the Respect for Marriage Act quickly into the U.S. Code. Now, we look forward to the critical protective step of the Respect for Marriage Act becoming the law of the land."

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, chair of Congress's Equality Caucus: "Today, a bipartisan group of 61 Senators made clear that this country will not roll back the clock on marriage equality. The Respect for Marriage Act is a crucial safeguard for LGBTQ+ people whose lives have been forever changed by Obergefell v. Hodges and Americans who are in interracial marriages thanks to Loving v. Virginia. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court declared marriage equality as the law of the land. Today, the Senate ensured those marriages will continue to be protected. I thank Senators Feinstein, Baldwin, and Collins for introducing this bill in the Senate and the bipartisan group of Senators who helped shepherd this bill through the Senate. I look forward to quickly passing the Senate-passed version of the bill in the House and sending it to the President's desk."

The Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director of Faithful America: "The historic vote on the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate is a victory for same-sex couples and interracial couples. And it's a victory for religious freedom. This vital civil rights legislation will protect same-sex and interracial marriages from the Supreme Court's recent damaging foray into theocracy and legislating from the bench. The House must move swiftly to send the legislation to the White House. It is a historic moment, but it is just one moment in the journey toward equality. Now it's time -- past time -- for lawmakers to pass the Equality Act that will once and for all prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. True freedom means giving all Americans the legal freedom to live as God made us and to marry whom we love. The Gospels teach love, equality, and dignity for all and all are equal in God's eyes. Now we need equality under the law."

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