Nov 17 2022
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor on her bill, the Respect for Marriage Act.
Video of her remarks is available here and the transcript follows:
“I rise today to speak about the Respect for Marriage Act.
I was proud to introduce this bill earlier this summer with Senators Baldwin, Collins and Portman. And I’m greatly encouraged by yesterday’s bipartisan vote of 62 to 37 to advance the bill and continue moving this important legislation forward.
The Respect for Marriage Act would guarantee legal protections for millions of marriages in the United States by repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and ensuring that marriages entered into legally are given full faith and credit by every state and the federal government.
Simply put, Americans should be free to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation or race, without fear of discrimination or fear that their marriages will be invalidated.
This is a straightforward bill: it merely codifies the existing requirement that the federal government and every state recognize legal marriages.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to marry for same-sex couples.
And 55 years ago, in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that ‘The freedom to marry ... a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the state.’
These decisions also reflect the will of the American people. Over the past few decades, public support for same-sex and interracial marriage has grown exponentially. In fact, recent polls have found that 71 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage and 94 percent approve of interracial marriages.
And this bill has been endorsed by hundreds of organizations, including nonprofits, corporations and religious organizations that span the ideological spectrum.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a list of endorsing organizations be added to the record.
I’d like to applaud the House for passing the Respect for Marriage Act with significant bipartisan support earlier this summer. It is now the time for the Senate to do the same.
I’d like to take a moment to speak to my Republican colleagues who have said marriage equality is a ‘non-issue’ right now. Some of my Senate colleagues have said things like ‘it’s the law of the land – so passing legislation is not a good use of Congress’s time.’
But as we saw this summer with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, hard-fought rights are still always vulnerable to repeal.
We must also remember that in a concurring opinion to the Roe v. Wade repeal, one Supreme Court Justice explicitly called for the court to reconsider and overturn Obergefell.
We must act now so that no matter what happens in the courts, married same-sex and interracial couples are protected.
Overturning Obergefell and Loving would return the country to a patchwork of state laws where couples could be subject to state-sanctioned discrimination. Many states still have bans on same-sex marriage on the books that would immediately take effect if marriage equality were overturned.
I’d also like to touch on how far-reaching the legal ramifications of overturning Obergefell and Loving would be.
Without the Respect for Marriage Act, if a married same-sex or interracial couple lived in a state that decided to ban their union, their marriage could be invalidated.
Even if a couple lived in a state that permitted same-sex or interracial marriage, that marriage could be deemed invalid if they were to travel to a state that did not have marriage equality.
Invalidating marriages would also give rise to a host of legal concerns for couples who relied on the ability to marry when making major life and family planning decisions.
For example, spouses may no longer be able to make important health care decisions or even visit their partners in the hospital. Non-birthing parents may no longer have parental rights over their children. There would be some serious confusion about federal and state tax filings, and tax laws could be arbitrarily and discriminatorily applied.
The Respect for Marriage Act will ensure that all legally married couples are afforded the same protections regardless of where they live, providing security and peace of mind to millions of families.
Mr. President, I have spent decades advocating for equality.
As a supervisor and mayor of San Francisco during the height of the gay rights movement, I witnessed the terrible pain and trauma that resulted from hateful discrimination.
I watched firsthand as the LGBT community fought for legal recognition of their lives, their relationships and their personal dignity. We cannot return to a system that allows bigotry and hate.
Bigotry and discrimination have no place in this society. No one should have to live not knowing whether their marriage will suddenly become invalid. This bill will give families the peace of mind and security that comes with knowing their valid marriages will remain legally protected under federal law.
I want to thank Senators [Baldwin], Collins, Portman, Sinema and Tillis for their leadership on this important issue and I encourage the rest of my colleagues to please join us in supporting the passage of the bill.”