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Senate Passes Baldwin-Collins Marriage Equality Bill

The Respect for Marriage Act enshrines marriage equality in federal law while protecting religious liberties.

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ remarks from the Senate floor.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ remarks.  Click HERE to download.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins urge her colleagues to vote for the bill.  Click HERE to download.


Washington, D.C.—Today, by a vote of 61-36, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation spearheaded by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to prevent discrimination, promote equality, and protect the rights of all Americans.  Senators Baldwin and Collins have been leading the push to enshrine marriage equality in federal law, and they recently introduced an amendment with Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to add protections for religious liberties.  The bill must now be voted on by the House before heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law.


“The Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that all married couples—including same-sex and interracial couples—are entitled to the rights and responsibilities of marriage, regardless of the state in which they live,” said Senator Collins.  “Let us remember that we are talking about our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends.  I am proud to have stood—and I will continue to stand—with them in the efforts to secure their rights, while also steadfastly protecting and respecting religious liberty.”


Throughout her Senate service, Senator Collins has worked to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, from leading the repeal of the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to advocating for the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.


The religious freedom protections in Senators Baldwin and Collins’ legislation have been endorsed by a number of religious and legal groups.  These include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the AND Campaign, the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, the Center for Public Justice, and the 1st Amendment Partnership. 


Specifically, Senators Baldwin and Collins’ bipartisan amendment:


  • Protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law, including but not limited to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from being used to diminish or repeal any such protection.


  • Confirms that non-profit religious organizations will not be required to provide any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.


  • Guarantees that this bill may not be used to deny or alter any benefit, right, or status of an otherwise eligible person or entity – including tax-exempt status, tax treatment, grants, contracts, agreements, guarantees, educational funding, loans, scholarships, licenses, certifications, accreditations, claims, or defenses – provided that the benefit, right, or status does not arise from a marriage. For instance, a church, university, or other nonprofit’s eligibility for tax-exempt status is unrelated to marriage, so its status would not be affected by this legislation.


  • Makes clear that the bill does not require or authorize the Federal government to recognize polygamous marriages.


  • Recognizes the importance of marriage, acknowledges that diverse beliefs and the people who hold them are due respect, and affirms that couples, including same-sex and interracial couples, deserve the dignity, stability, and ongoing protection of marriage.


The Respect for Marriage Act is a narrow but important bill that would do two primary things:


  • First, it would require the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed.


  • Second, the bill would guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin, but the bill would not require a State to issue a marriage license contrary to state law.


A one-pager on the amendment is available here and full text is available here.