Leslie A. Farber
Respect For Marriage Act (RMA)
Updated: Feb 8
The recently enacted Respect for Marriage Act (“RMA”) by the bipartisan U.S. Congress requires every state in the U.S. to recognize a same-sex marriage from every other state. This statute was enacted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s (“SCOTUS”) June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, overruling Roe v Wade which has guaranteed to the right to abortion across the land. What does this new law have to do with a right to abortion, you may ask.
Nothing directly; but in a concurring opinion to SCOTUS’ Dobbs decision, Justice Thomas stated that the right to marriage equality is in his crosshairs, as it is with a few other justices on the Supreme Court. If this fear comes to fruition in an appropriate case in the future, SCOTUS could overrule its 2015 Obergefell and 2013 Windsor decisions which had guaranteed the right to marriage by same-sex couples across the country and recognition by the U.S. government. The RMA would prevent overruling those decisions to the extent that marriages performed in 1 state must be considered legal marriage in every state but does not compel any state or religious institution to perform marriages of people of the same sex.
Some legal scholars believe that the federal statute can require one state to recognize a marriage from another state because recognition of marriage never before has been included in what acts of one state must recognize under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution. But even assuming that the new Act is constitutional, even states which do not require performance of marriage ceremonies in that state probably will not be required to provide any of the rights and benefits which flow from the marriage.
Nevertheless, Congress did make a great step forward for marriage equality with the bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.