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Hudson County congressmen vote for Respect for Marriage Act

The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act signed by former President Bill Clinton that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman

Americans rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, when marriage equality became the law of the land. Photo by Rena Schild for Shutterstock.

Hudson County Congress members have voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation that would enshrine marriage equality rights into law to protect them from the Republican-appointed conservative majority currently dominating the U.S. Supreme Court.

The law would establish that a marriage is protected under federal law if it was legal in the state where it was performed.

The legislation would also protect an out-of-state marriage regardless of any state law. In addition, it would provide the U.S. Attorney General with the authority to pursue enforcement actions for violations of the law and allows individuals harmed by a violation to pursue their own legal actions.

The bill would also fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law signed by former President Bill Clinton that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. While the act was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor, the law still remains in place and Democrats seek to repeal it fully in this legislation.

In reaction to U.S. Supreme Court ruling

The act has been introduced twice in the past before unsuccessfully, but is making rounds again in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling reversing Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion at the federal level.

In his concurrence in that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas also called for a revisit and overturn of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality at the federal level.

The bill got the votes of both Rep. Donald Payne Jr. of the 10th Congressional District which encompasses parts of Jersey City, and Rep. Bill Pascrell of the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey which encompasses Secaucus and parts of Kearny.

“The House is voting today to enshrine marriage equality into hard law,” said Pascrell. “We are moving with urgency because the radical right wing Supreme Court no longer recognizes a right to privacy and has signaled it respects no precedents in its quest to impose Republicans’ extremism on America.

“They will not stop with Roe v. Wade and the right to choose. Clarence Thomas has clearly described the court’s intent to reverse the same sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Our bill guarantees under law that same sex and interracial couples have marriage equality protections and repeals the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. These times demand vigilance and action on behalf of our neighbors. The Senate should quickly advance our bill to protect marriage equality now.”

“Americans should have the right to marry the people they love without discrimination,” said Payne. “While I thought this issue was settled, I am proud to work to make it a federal law that cannot be denied by individual states. It appears that certain people in this country want to remove many rights that all Americans have worked to gain. But this bill, like many others that Congress has passed recently to protect the rights of Americans, will create protections for marriage equality that would be difficult to overturn.”

Uphill battle in the Senate?

Rep. Albio Sires of the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey which encompasses much of Hudson County also voted for the bill, although he did not issue a statement.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives, of which Democrats hold a majority, by 267-157. A total of 47 Republicans joined the 220 Democrats who voted to support the bill, although most Republicans voted against it, except for 7 that did not vote. 

However, it remains unclear if the bill will pass the Senate. To do so, at least 10 Republican Senators would have to join the Democrats in voting to pass the legislation to get it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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