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The Respect for Marriage Act Explained

January 10th, 2023

In December 2022, the Respect for Marriage Act was signed into law in the most pro-LGBTQ equality vote in history.
In December 2022, the Respect for Marriage Act was signed into law in the most pro-LGBTQ equality vote in history.

In December 2022, the House voted 258 to 169 and the Senate voted 61 to 36 in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act. Not only did enough senators vote in favor of this act to overcome a filibuster, but it received the most votes of any pro-LGBTQ legislation in history. Indeed, many view this act as the biggest win in the fight for equality since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010. This act will change how marriage is viewed under federal law, but what does the Respect for Marriage Act actually do, and how might it affect religious groups in the United States? Let’s find out:

What Does the Respect for Marriage Act Say?

At its core, the Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government to legally recognize a marriage between two individuals – as long as the marriage is valid in the state where it was performed. This means that if same-sex couples get legal marriages in states where same-sex marriages are allowed, their marriage must be recognized wherever they go in the United States as being proper and legal.

Does the Respect for Marriage Act Force States to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses?

The Respect for Marriage Act cannot force states to issue same-sex marriage licenses. However, states are already obligated to do this under the 2015 Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage a federal constitutional right. The important thing to remember is that if this court decision ever gets overturned, the Respect for Marriage Act could not step in and serve the same function. 

Who is Opposed to the Respect for Marriage Act?

There are a number of religious organizations that are opposed to same-sex marriage but were supportive of the bill because it was seen as a suitable compromise. These include the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Groups that outright opposed the bill include the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention. The bill itself acknowledges this opposition and states that “traditional views” on marriage are held by “reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.”

Will Any Churches Lose Their Tax-Exempt Status Due to This Bill?

No churches will lose their tax-exempt status because of this bill. Those that continue to oppose same-sex marriage will continue to operate in exactly the same way. The bill itself states that nothing in the act may “deny or alter any benefit, right, or status of an otherwise eligible person or entity,” including “tax-exempt status” or “tax-treatment.” 

Perhaps most importantly, this also extends to potential lawsuits. Any church, mosque, synagogue, or religious organization that openly denies the legitimacy of same-sex marriages or denies services to same-sex couples cannot be sued as a result. In other words, same-sex marriage may be protected and recognized in the United States – but that doesn’t give a same-sex couple the right to walk into a Southern Baptist church and demand that they provide them with a wedding ceremony. Same-sex couples also cannot sue churches for any perceived discrimination on the basis of their same-sex marriage. 

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision substantially advanced same-sex rights in the United States. Since then, however, various setbacks to LGBTQ+ rights in the United States have occurred. The Universal Life Church’s blog is dedicated to documenting the most noteworthy cases concerning LGBTQ+ rights. Our blog does so in a way that examines opposing sides and describes manners in a way that can be easily understood by readers.

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