Cantwell on Marriage Equality: “We Need To Make Sure That This Is For Generations To Come”

Senate votes 62-37 to advance Cantwell-cosponsored Respect for Marriage Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined the 62 senators who voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide federal recognition and protection for same-sex and interracial marriages across the country. After the vote, Sen. Cantwell delivered a speech on the Senate floor.

“These are strong protections that are long overdue. I understand some of my colleagues do not see a need for passing this legislation, but I would ask them to stand in the shoes of someone in a marriage that is in danger of being dissolved overnight by a court decision,” said Sen Cantwell, who is one of 43 cosponsors of the bill. “Marriage equality has been protected under Washington state law for a decade. It has been protected by the Supreme Court for seven years, and yet here in the Senate, there are some that don't believe we need to take further protections.”

“Same-sex and interracial couples deserve the assurance that their marriage will be recognized,” Sen. Cantwell continued. “They need to know that they will continue to enjoy the freedom and privileges that are afforded to other couples, and we need to make sure that this is for generations to come. The American people want this legislation passed.”

Congress acted to enshrine marriage equality into federal law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade using a legal argument that could be used as precedent to challenge the right to same-sex and interracial marriage. The Supreme Court’s reasoning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization indicated that the Court is open to reconsidering cases that determined certain fundamental rights are protected under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, like marriage equality.

The Respect for Marriage Act would:

  • Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This 1996 law that discriminated against same-sex couples been ruled unconstitutional, but is still on the books.
  • Enshrine marriage equality for federal law purposes. The bill requires that federal law respect the marriage between two people without regard to sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage -- ensuring the law of the land respects same-sex and interracial marriages.  
  • Provide additional legal protections. The bill prohibits U.S. states from denying the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage.
  • Protects religious freedoms.  Protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or federal law, including the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and confirms that non-profit religious organizations will not be required to provide any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.

The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act in July. Today’s vote was on a procedural motion to invoke cloture and advance the bill in the Senate with a bipartisan amendment; if the Senate ultimately passes the bill, the amended version will return to the House for another vote before heading to President Biden’s desk.

Video of Sen. Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE; audio can be found HERE; a transcript can be found HERE.