Cantwell on Voting for Historic Marriage Equality Bill: “This Was a Vote for Love and Liberty”

Senate votes 61-36 to codify same-sex and interracial marriage into law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 61 Senate colleagues in a vote to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriage across the United States.

“At a time when the extreme right is threatening our most private choices, this was a vote for love and for liberty,” said Sen. Cantwell. “Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act means that a couple married in Washington state will never have to worry that their legal bond could be dissolved if they move to another state, or have their federal benefits taken away by an overreaching Supreme Court decision. This historic bill safeguards the rights of loving couples across the country.”

The bill – which previously progressed in the Senate on a 62-37 procedural vote on Nov. 16 – will now return to the House for a vote, where it’s anticipated to be approved and sent to President Biden’s desk for final signature.

The Respect for Marriage Act would:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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.

After the Respect for Marriage Act passed its procedural vote on Nov. 16, Sen. Cantwell spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bill. Video of Sen. Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE; audio can be found HERE; a transcript can be found HERE.