President Joe Biden has signed the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404), which aims to protect same-sex and interracial marriages if the US Supreme Court reverses the cases that established the constitutional right to such marriages. Such reversals became a theoretical possibility when raised in one of the opinions overturning a US constitutional right to an abortion (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (US June 24, 2022)). The bill also revises or repeals certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Pub. L. No. 104-199).
Supreme Court precedents at stake. In Loving v. Virginia (388 US 1 (1967)), the court held that laws preventing interracial marriages violate the US Constitution. In Obergefell v. Hodges (576 US 644 (2015)), the court similarly opined that all states must issue same-sex marriage licenses and struck down Section 2 of DOMA, which allowed states to ignore same-sex marriages validly performed elsewhere. That ruling came two years after the court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages (US v. Windsor (570 US 744 (2013)).
Bill would codify some same-sex marriage protections. The Respect for Marriage Act does not codify all parts of the Obergefell decision. The legislation:
The Respect for Marriage Act shouldn’t have an immediate effect on employers’ benefits and human resource policies. However, the measure serves as a reminder that employers need to stay abreast of the evolving legislative and legal landscape around LGBTQI+ issues, including the various federal compliance obligations related to workplace sex nondiscrimination and domestic partner benefits. Employers also need to monitor any future litigation related to the legislation’s religious liberty or conscience protections.