By Mackenna Hunter
On December 13, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act on the South Lawn of the White House, which serves to protect LGBTQ+ and interracial marriages, to an extent. LGBTQ+ marriages are constitutionally upheld due to the rulings of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case. If the ruling of this case was overturned, states would be able to choose whether or not to protect queer marriage. Were Obergefell to fall, only 19 states would allow queer marriages to be performed, while 32 would not.
While the Respect for Marriage Act does not ensure the federal protection of LGBTQ+ marriage, it does guarantee that queer marriages are recognized across state borders, as well as federally. In addition to protecting the recognition of LGBTQ+ marriages, the Respect for Marriage act takes the spot of the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed for queer marriages to go unrecognized in the states they were not performed in and to optionalize same-sex marriage recognition on a federal level. An amendment of the Act allows for nonprofit religious organizations to refuse performing queer marriages.
This is undoubtedly a notable step for the queer community, as now LGBTQ+ marriages are guaranteed to be recognized by state and federal governments, regardless of whether or not they can be performed in individual states.
Undoubtedly, there is room to appreciate the accomplishments of the present while also recognizing that there is extremely far to go. The percentage of LGBTQ+ individuals in the U.S. has doubled since 2012, reaching a new high of 7.1%. Having queer relationships recognized is simply not enough; they need to be protected with the same vigor that heterosexual marriages are.
Matthew Dietrich, an openly queer senior here at Hammond, is about as involved in the LGBTQ+ community of Howard County as anyone can be. As an intern for Ms. DuPuis, the LGBTQ+ initiative specialist for HCPSS, he works on the Rainbow Conference and the Pride Prom.
While Dietrich agrees that this act is a step in the right direction, he feels it’s not a big enough one. “It was a good first step and in our political climate right now it was at least something. They didn’t just [say] ‘oh that’ll never happen,’ and then the court case gets ripped away, as precedent,” Dietrich said in reference to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
On the amendment to the act, Dietrich said simply, “It’s like that baker who refused services to that gay couple for not making that wedding cake. It’s like, okay if you don’t like that, I don’t really want you making my cake anyway, you know?” In 2011, David Mullins and Charlie Craig got engaged and decided they would wed in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where gay marriage was legalized, before returning to their home state of Colarado for the reception. When they walked into Jack Phillips’ Colorado bakery, Phillips asked who the proposed wedding cake was for and immediately turned the couple away when he found out it was for the men.
Junior Lauren Kidd agrees that religious officiates should not be mandated to perform gay marriages, as she feels that it’s important not to offend either party, whether they be for gay marriage or not. Regardless, Kidd believes that “each state should have to protect the performance of [queer marriage].”
“I appreciate the thought, love Joe Byron (Biden) for that, but I feel like he could do a little bit more to ensure that the next president doesn’t come in and just take it away,” Dietrich finalizes his thoughts. [Let the record state that Matthew Dietrich does know the name of the President of the United States. He was referencing a video in which a street interviewer asks a man “What you want to tell Joe Byron right now?” and the citizen responds, “Sup baby, take me out to dinner.”]