Respect for Marriage Act

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 8, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support for the Respect for Marriage Act, an historic step forward in Democrats' fight to defend the dignity and equality of every American.

Let us salute those who have legislated and advocated relentlessly to make this bill the law of the land. I thank the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline, and all of the members of the Equality Caucus, and the grassroots activists out there, without whose mobilization so many pieces of legislation to expand freedom in our country would not be possible.

I say that because when I came to this floor 35 years ago, my first speech on the floor, after I was sworn in, was to talk about--say that I came here to fight HIV and AIDS. What I learned after that is we had to fight against discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.

Two people who were so significant in that are Phyllis and Del, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, champions in our country. Well, I will talk about them in a moment.

First, I want to salute the Senate for its strong bipartisan legislation, the leadership of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tammy Baldwin, and the bipartisan, strong support that this House gave the legislation to send it over to the Senate.

Marriage equality has been law across our country since 2015 and, proudly, even longer in the State of California. Indeed, my thoughts today are with Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, two dear friends and iconic trailblazers. I have brought their picture to the floor time and time again to talk about freedom and dignity and respect so many times.

Nearly two decades ago, their enduring love made history as they joyfully, joyfully said their vows in San Francisco City Hall, the first. In the years since, the same euphoria has blessed couples and bonded families in every corner of America.

Yet, since the Supreme Court's monstrous decision overturning Roe v. Wade, rightwing forces have set their sights on this basic personal freedom.

In his concurrent opinion, Clarence Thomas explicitly called on the Court to reconsider its ruling in Obergefell. While his legal reasoning is twisted and unsound, we must take Justice Thomas at his word and the hateful movement behind him at their word.

We must act now, on a bipartisan, bicameral basis, to combat bigoted extremism and uphold the inviolability of same-sex and interracial marriages.

Once signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will help prevent rightwing extremists from: Upending the lives of loving couples, traumatizing kids across the country, and turning back the clock on hard-won progress.

This legislation takes several steps to uphold marriage equality under Federal law.

First, it tears the bigoted, unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act off the books for good. When that bill was passed, our colleagues understood that it was not constitutional. Why else would they have tried to strip the judicial review of the Defense of Marriage Act if they thought it could take the test of judicial review?

Today's vote will codify a legal reality already handed down by the Supreme Court and ensure DOMA can never again be used to justify hateful discrimination.

Second, the Respect for Marriage Act will enshrine married couples' right to equal protection under Federal law, from tax filings to Social Security, to bereavement and veterans' benefits.

Third, this legislation will require that every State recognize all valid out-of-state marriages, regardless of any heinous restrictions imposed by particular State law.

This legislation is the latest step in House Democrats' fight to win full equality for LGBTQ Americans and forge a more perfect union that our children and their children, all of our children deserve.

Fighting alongside tireless advocates, we transformed the fight against HIV/AIDS, here at home and around the world; and I thank President Bush for his leadership in that regard as well, all of our Presidents--well, up until a certain point.

We tossed Don't Ask, Don't Tell into the dustbin of history. We enacted fully inclusive Federal hate crimes legislation, protecting Americans from the scourge of bigoted violence, with the Matthew Shepard Act; our friend, Barney Frank, our former colleague, was so instrumental in passing that legislation.

Today, we will include marriage equality into Federal law now and for generations to come.

I am just going to speak personally for a moment because, as I mentioned earlier, my first words on the floor of this House were about fighting against HIV and AIDS and discrimination that goes with that.

My final bill as Speaker the first time, one of the final bills that I signed was the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Now, one of the final bills that I will sign in the enrollment will be this beautiful legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act that we are passing today.

Today, we stand up for the values the vast majority of Americans hold dear, a belief in the dignity, beauty, and divinity, divinity, spark of divinity in every person, an abiding respect for love so powerful that it binds two people together.

San Francisco's--when we talk about freedom, I think of Harvey Milk. He once told his supporters: ``I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.''

Thus, today, this Chamber proudly stands with the forces of freedom, not going back, and justice.

Mr. Speaker, I urge a resounding bipartisan ``aye'' vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act in loving memory of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, my dear friends, and iconic pioneers, and I urge a strong bipartisan vote. Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore