Respect Equality

Religious groups call on Senate to pass Respect for Marriage Act

“Our advocacy is not in spite of our faiths - it's because of them."

Story at a glance


  • More than a dozen religious groups are calling on the Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

  • The Respect for Marriage Act would address a national patchwork of marriage laws by requiring states to recognize interracial and same-sex marriages as legally valid if those unions were performed in a state without a statute or constitutional amendment prohibiting them.

  • Recent polling data shows majorities of most major religious groups support same-sex marriage.

Major faith organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and Interfaith Alliance are calling on senators to pass the Respect for Marriage Act to enshrine same-sex and interracial marriage protections into federal law.

“Within our communities, we approach matters of marriage, family, and identity differently,” reads a letter signed signed Monday by more than a dozen religious groups and addressed to Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). “This bill recognizes this diversity of belief while ensuring that same-sex and interracial couples are treated with equal respect by federal and state governments.” 

The Respect for Marriage Act, a version of which was passed by the House in July, would address a national patchwork of marriage laws by requiring states to recognize interracial and same-sex marriages as legally valid if those unions were performed in a state without a statute or constitutional amendment prohibiting them. 

More than 30 states have laws that ban same-sex marriages still on the books, though none of them are currently enforceable under the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex unions nationwide. 

The Respect for Marriage Act would also officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that defined legal marriage for federal purposes as a union between one man and one woman. 

Senate Democrats had eyed a vote on the measure in September but agreed to delay until after the midterms when Republicans indicated it would increase the likelihood of it getting enough GOP support to overcome a filibuster. 

Senators earlier this month released a bipartisan substitute amendment strengthening the measure’s religious liberty protections to win over Republicans, which religious organizations on Monday said provided important clarification around the Respect for Marriage Act’s interaction with religious freedoms protected under the U.S. Constitution and federal law. 

“Crafted in the spirit of collaboration, the amendment protects the right to believe as we choose while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to respect marriages,” the groups wrote. 

Katy Joseph, director of policy and advocacy at the Interfaith Alliance, in a statement to Changing America said it shouldn’t come as a surprise that major religious institutions are backing federal marriage equality legislation. 

A March Public Religion Research Institute poll found that majorities of most major religious groups support same-sex marriage, including 83 percent of Jewish Americans, more than 70 percent of Catholics and Protestants and more than half of Muslims. 

A September poll by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ rights group, found that more than two-thirds of likely voters in congressional battleground states support legislation to protect the national right to same-sex marriage, including 55 percent of Christians. 

Even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which in 2008 funneled millions of dollars into California’s Proposition 8 to effectively ban same-sex marriage in the state, voiced its support for the Respect for Marriage Act this month. 

“We are working to ensure the federal government recognizes the humanity and rights of all people, no matter who they are or who they love,” Joseph said Monday. “Our advocacy is not in spite of our faiths – it’s because of them.”