Become an 1819 Member






Sign up

While the Political Left has been reeling from defeats lately - from the Supreme Court overruling Roe to parents fighting back against woke indoctrination of their kids- the Left has been making progress on one issue: passing a federal law that will further break down marriage.

Representative Jerry Nalder (D-NY10), who recently declared, “What religious tradition describes as the will of God is of no concern to this Congress,” introduced a bill called the Respect for Marriage Act to the House of Representatives. Contrary to its assertion, this bill further undermines marriage by allowing it to be defined in just about any way that is contrary to the will of marriage’s Architect.

Here's what it does:

First, it explicitly repeals the Defense of Marriage Act. That act, by a margin of 342-67 in the House and 85-14 in the Senate, defined marriage, for federal purposes, as between a man and a woman and was signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The Supreme Court struck this down in 2013 in United States v. Windsor, reasoning largely that marriage was a state issue (until 2015, when it decided that it was a federal issue). But just as the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, it might overrule Windsor if given the chance. However, if the Respect for Marriage Act passes, then that chance goes away.

Second, it requires the states to give “full faith and credit” to any marriage as between two people if recognized by one state towards another. Before the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, there was a debate as to whether one state could refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage granted by another state. But assuming Congress has the constitutional authority to take this step, then even if Obergefell gets reversed, the federal government will stand ready to tell the states that they had better not even think about pushing back against a same-sex marriage granted by another state.

But the third thing this bill does is unprecedented. For federal purposes, the bill will define marriage as whatever the state in which a person is living decides it is. Currently, there is a push to legalize polygamy in Utah. In 2020, the state reduced the penalty for polygamy from a felony to an infraction, basically the same level as a speeding ticket.

So is polygamy legal in Utah? As a technical matter, no. As a practical matter, yes. The ball has made its way down the field and is now on the one yard line with virtually unlimited downs. All it has to go is one more yard for polygamy to finally be legal. Just as civil unions set the stage for same-sex marriage, so also reducing the penalty for polygamy to a mere violation sets the stage for polygamy’s full legalization.

When the Left was pushing to legalize same-sex marriage, those of us on the Right argued that polygamy would be next. Turns out we were right. And now, we’re very close to the federal government recognizing it as legitimate.

The bill passed the House of Representatives with 47 Republicans voting for it. The bill now moves to the Senate. If it passes there, President Biden will surely sign it.

I’m currently at a conference with other organizations like the Alabama Policy Institute that stand for strong families. The word here is that Chuck Schumer, the Senator from New York, might have 10 Republicans in the Senate to join him. The regular Senate moderates are said to be for it, but a handful of Republicans are said here to be “maybes.”

One of them is Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville.

Senator Tuberville has been good so far, so I find it surprising that he has been listed as a maybe. I question whether this is true. Nevertheless, if he’s facing pressure to vote for this, it would be good if he heard from his constituents, who voted 81% in favor not that long ago to recognize marriage as between one man and one woman. I’m sure that it would likewise help Senator Shelby to hear that the people of Alabama do not want this. If Schumer can’t get 60 votes, then he can’t beat the filibuster, and the bill dies. The Democrats are probably going to get wiped out in the midterms, so if we hold the line here, then I think we win.

Let’s not assume that the fight for marriage is over. We saw Roe fall. We may see Obergefell and Windsor fall if we do not give up. Let’s not codify polygamy, same-sex marriage, or whatever weird twist on marriage the Left tries next into federal law. Hold the line a little longer. Help is right around the corner if we don’t give up.

Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.

Become an 1819 Member

Sign up