By a vote of 61-36, the Senate has passed the Respect for Marriage Act.

The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and requires the federal government and state governments to recognize interracial and same-sex marriages performed in other states. What it doesn’t do is require states allow same-sex or interracial marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional in the Windsor case. That law prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.

Interracial marriage was declared legal in the Loving case in 1968 and same-sex marriage legal in the more recent Obergefell case in 2016. But in a recent opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas questioned the rulings related to same-sex marriage and suggested the opinions should be revisited.

What Thomas did not question was interracial marriage. Coincidentally, he’s in an interracial marriage. But another court could overturn Loving.

The Respect for Marriage Act is just another level of protection for these relationships. But just as the court decisions could be overturned, the Respect for Marriage Act could be repealed.

If Obergefell is overturned, states could stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex or interracial couples. Those couples would still be allowed to marry, but would have to travel to another state to do so. Once married in a state where it is legal, the couple’s home state would have to recognize the marriage.

Once passed by the Senate, the bill would have to return to the House of Representatives. Although that body already passed a version of the bill, several amendments were attached in the Senate so the House must approve the final version.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation.

— David Taffet