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Respect for Marriage Act Passage an Important Step But Not Equity, Says LGBTQIA+/Ally Catholic Group

December 8, 2022. DignityUSA, the nation’s foremost organization of Catholics working for justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in our church and society, is pleased that both houses of Congress have now passed the Respect for Marriage Act, and that President Biden will sign the measure into law. 

We note that the Respect for Marriage Act was passed with bipartisan support, confirming what we have long known: the majority of U.S. Catholics of all political affiliations affirm that same-sex marriage should be a legal right across our country. In 2021, 58% of white Catholic Republicans, 60% of Hispanic Catholic Republicans, 70% of white Catholics and 72% of Hispanic Catholics supported legal same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Despite the vocal pressure brought by U.S. Catholic bishops and some others in our church against the Respect for Marriage Act, solid majorities of Catholic voters will approve of its passage. 

Passage of this legislation, however, is not a complete victory. Moreover, it fails to address the ongoing inequities, legal and cultural, that continue to push LGBTQIA+ people and people of color out of the center of many communities. Indeed, DignityUSA is deeply concerned that the final version of the Respect for Marriage Act will in some ways actually work to perpetuate the inequity that interracial and same-sex couples have long experienced in our country. 

While the Act requires that all states must acknowledge the legal marriages of interracial and same-sex couples, it allows states to choose whether to issue marriage licenses to them. This means that interracial and same-sex couples will face barriers that mixed-gender couples of similar racial background will not. The challenge of understanding and navigating different laws in different states perpetuates a two-tiered system that burdens interracial and same-sex couples. Such couples and families living in states that choose not to issue marriage licenses to them are likely to find that their relationships are treated with less validity, and to feel the increased burden of having to repeatedly prove their legal status. This is not right. 

DignityUSA believes that love is love, and that there should be true marriage equality across our country. We pledge to continue to work for equitable legal recognition of all marriages and families. In addition, we renew our commitment to continue working for justice, equity, and inclusion for all LGBTIA+ people, for racial equity, and for the human rights of all marginalized people.