Tom Strode of Baptist Press writes that same-sex marriage in the United States is now protected by federal law after President Biden approved the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA).
Advocates pushed for new legislation, fearing the Supreme Court might one day overturn its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. RMA does not force states to accept same-sex marriage, though it does repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act allowing states to deny marriage recognition. A few Evangelical groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention, criticized the passage of RMA. The Convention has held to its position that marriage should only be between people of different genders.
By enacting DOMA in 1996, the federal government defined marriage as only between a man and a woman and protected the right of a state not to recognize a same-sex marriage that occurred in another jurisdiction.
Concerns expressed by congressional Democrats that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court might reverse its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized gay marriage fueled the effort to enact the RMA. Congress gave final passage to the bill three weeks before control of the House of Representatives is to be transferred to the Republican Party.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) expressed disappointment at the enactment of a measure it and other opponents say not only contradicts the biblical view of marriage as only between a man and a woman but poses a threat to religious freedom.
ERLC President Brent Leatherwood told Baptist Press, “Since our work opposing this bill began in July, the ERLC has remained consistently clear: Marriage is an institution that cannot be defined by the government. God has intentionally established it as a life-long, covenantal union between one man and one woman for the purpose of human flourishing.
Messengers to the SBC’s annual meetings have affirmed marriage as solely the union of a man and a woman in multiple resolutions across the years.
Before signing the bill, Biden told the audience gathered for the ceremony it comes on a day “America takes a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice not just for some but for everyone.” He described the enactment of the RMA as “a hard-fought victory generations in the making.”