On Monday, the US Senate approved a procedural motion to move forward the Marriage Respect Act, a bill that would provide federal recognition for all marriages between two people.
The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states not to recognize same-sex marriages.
Dale Carpenter, chairman and professor of constitutional law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, spoke to the Texas Standard about the bill’s provisions. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: The title of the bill suggests that it protects the right of any two people to marry. Does he do anything else?
Dale Carpenter: In this regard, he does several very important things. It does guarantee the right of two people to marry, at least in the eyes of the federal government. The federal government agrees to recognize these marriages. It doesn’t actually do the job of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, as it doesn’t actually guarantee that two people can get married in any given state. Probably, this can only be done by a constitutional decision. It states that if people marry in the state, the federal government must recognize those marriages. Thus, it repeals what is known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Let’s say one state decides not to recognize same-sex marriages. Will it force other states not to recognize this union? In other words, if there was a previous union between a same-sex couple and the law changed in that particular jurisdiction, would that neighboring state, for example, force the marriage to be valid?
The act does two things, really. One is the requirement that the federal government recognize marriages between two people. The second thing it does is that while it allows a state to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages after the Obergefell decision is overturned, if it is overturned, it requires every state to recognize same-sex marriages and interracial marriages that take place. in other states. Therefore, if Texas decides after Obergefell is repealed that it no longer wants to recognize same-sex marriages or allow them within its jurisdiction, it will still have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
So this is an effective attempt to stop the court from making a decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country to Obergefell, what did it do to Rowe?
Well, that can’t stop a court from overturning an Obergefell-like decision sometime in the future, although I don’t think the court is likely to do so in the near to medium term. So he can’t stop the court from doing so, but what he can do is provide as much support for the legal protection of same-sex marriage as the federal government can do under its constitutional powers.
» MORE: LGBTQ Texans fear Supreme Court will review same-sex marriage, leaving them without legal protection
Allegations are circulating on social media that the bill could affect tax exemptions for certain religious institutions. Do you know anything about it?
There is a lot of misinformation about this bill. I think it’s important to note two very important things. One is that this recognition that the bill requires is only the recognition that the government and government officials require. It does not apply to any private and, for example, non-profit religious organizations or churches. So it just doesn’t even apply to them. He has nothing to do with them, so he does not threaten them with anything.
But secondly, he takes a belts and suspenders approach and says, well, just to make sure, we’re going to say right in the bill – right in the bill – that no non-profit religious organizations will be required to provide goods, services or facilities for weddings. ceremonies or receptions. And it ensures that churches and other charitable religious organizations that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage don’t lose their tax-exempt status. So I don’t know how much clearer the bill could be about that.
Yes, I think you’re addressing the issue that Texas Senator John Cornyn raised yesterday, that this bill could make people with genuine religious beliefs who don’t condone same-sex marriage open to lawsuits. Are you saying this bill doesn’t do that?
There is no reason for this fear. There was never any basis for this fear. And in fact, the bill is specifically aimed at solving these problems.