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President Biden Signed Respect for Marriage Act Providing Protection for Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages

On December 13, 2022, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act (the “Act”) into law, establishing Federal statutory authority for same-sex and interracial marriages. The Act repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife” and prevented any State or territory from being required to give effect to a same-sex marriage from another State or territory. While the Act does not require States to issue marriage licenses to same-sex or interracial couples, it does require States and the Federal government to recognize and “give full faith and credit” to same-sex and interracial marriages conducted in other States that legally recognize such marriages. The Act also allows the Department of Justice to bring a civil action against those who fail to comply and allows individuals to assert legal claims for violations of the Act.

The Act preserves religious liberties or conscience protections available under the United States Constitution and Federal law. Further, consistent with First Amendment Protections, the Act does not require non-profit religious organizations to “provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

The Act also cannot be used to deny or alter the tax-exempt status – or any other status not arising from a marriage – for any otherwise eligible person or entity. Thus, the law may not be used by the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of any religious organization that refuses to host or perform a same-sex marriage.

Additionally, the Act does not require or authorize Federal recognition of polygamous marriages or marriages between more than 2 individuals.

This summary is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. This information should not be reused without permission.