The recent passage by the US Congress of the The Respect for Marriage Act, which enshrines into law the rights of LGBTQ and interracial couples to marry, represents a historic milestone in the ongoing fight for civil rights in this country.
It of course does not mean that the work for equal rights is over, nor that discrimination based on sexual orientation or race has been eliminated in this country. Other structural barriers to equality remain visible across our institutions, and hate-based attacks such as the one witnessed recently at the Colorado Springs LGBTQ night club remain far too common.
But the significance of the new law (pending President Biden's signature) should not be understated. It provides legal protection for same sex and interracial couples in every state of this country to marry, and requires states to recognize those marriages from other states. That would apply even if the US Supreme Court later overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry.
It is also significant that a small chunk of Republicans in both the House and Senate voted with all the Democrats to pass the bill. The passage of such a bill would have been unthinkable only 10 or 15 years ago, when even top Democrats opposed same-sex marriage.
It is only unfortunate that it took the Supreme Court decision earlier this year to overturn Roe v. Wade for us to recognize that the progress our society has made for equal rights remains vulnerable to right-wing attacks without those rights being enshrined into law by Congress.
Our work now must be to ensure that civil rights continue to expand for all groups experiencing discrimination, and that we foster a culture of belonging to go along with those rights, so that our legislative victories have a meaningful impact on the lived experiences of all people.