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ICYMI: Pappas leads fight for same-sex marriage protection

In case you missed it, the Union Leader reported that the Respect for Marriage Act, which Congressman Chris Pappas introduced in the House this year, is on its way to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

This legislation will enshrine marriage equality into federal law and protect the rights of same-sex and interracial married couples if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas said all same-sex couples in America should be relieved after the House passed legislation Thursday that would preempt any future Supreme Court from nullifying those marriages.

Pappas, 42, the first openly gay person elected to federal office in New Hampshire, told the Union Leader he and his partner, Vann Bentley, would marry next February.

“I guess I do have a personal interest in the legislation today. We are lucky to have families that are very supportive and living at a time when it is no longer a hot-button issue,” said Pappas, the Manchester Democrat who last month won his third term to represent the 1st Congressional District.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which also enshrines protections for interracial marriages, cleared the U.S. House Thursday on a 258-169-1 vote, with 39 Republicans joining all Democrats in supporting it.

The measure got bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate last week when 12 Republican senators crossed party lines to vote for it.

President Joe Biden has said he looks forward to signing it into law.

Last July, Pappas was one of the co-authors of the House version of the bill.

In 2009, New Hampshire became an early state to legalize same-sex marriage. Under the new federal legislation, such unions would remain in force even if the nation’s high court backed away from its earlier decision making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

Advocates said the new bill was needed so all 50 states would recognize these unions in the future, regardless of their own state laws.

The Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in 2013 and reinforced that decision in 2015.

This issue took on urgency in June with the court’s Dobbs decision repealing the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which for decades made all abortions legal before a fetus was viable outside the womb.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion on the Dobbs case, said the court should revisit other decisions, such as same-sex marriage and access to contraception.

“We have to believe him for what he is saying and expect there are other justices on the right that share his views,” Pappas said during a telephone interview. “People should have confidence that their marriage won’t be dissolved, and this law will provide that.”

During a floor speech, Pappas alluded to his upcoming wedding.

“Next year I will marry the love of my life. It is unthinkable that if the Supreme Court heeds Justice Thomas’ call, then our marriage might be recognized in New Hampshire where we live but not across the country. That is the reality that many couples feel,” Pappas said.

U.S Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., credited Pappas’ work in making this change in federal law a reality.

“Everyone deserves the freedom to marry who they love and love how they live — that’s why I was proud to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act today to finally make marriage equality the law of the land,” Kuster said.

“I want to commend my friend Representative Chris Pappas for his tireless work leading this historic effort.”

This legislation repeals the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which the Supreme Court had judged to be unconstitutional as it only recognized marriage as universally legal between a man and a woman.

Pappas said the issue bears watching because, should the court reverse its opinion, states could reimpose their own bans on same-sex marriage that were in place before 2013.

This new law makes clear that any state, regardless of what laws it might pass in the future, must recognize a marriage that takes place in a state where it is legal.

“This is an important step, but we will have to watch the court closely with respect to what it does on the right to privacy on a number of fronts,” Pappas said.

The Senate adopted stricter language on religious liberty, giving faith organizations the right not to recognize same-sex marriage or provide access to these services.

Pappas said it strikes the right balance.

“I think it was appropriate and compromise language that reflected the intent of the legislation, which was not to meddle in religion,” Pappas said.

“We have to respect the freedom of religion in this country. When we have consensus from the Mormon Church to LGBTQ groups like the Human Rights Campaign on this bill, it probably means we got the language right.”


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