Celebrity Lawyer Explains The Respect for Marriage Act

[Source: Spectrum News]

Celebrity lawyer Christopher C. Melcher, who is ranked as a best family law attorney in California, explains the Respect for Marriage Act on Spectrum News.


The Respect for Marriage Act, is heading to President Joe Biden‘s desk, where it awaits his signature into law. Congress passed this landmark piece of legislation that protects gay and interracial marriage and reaction to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. But some experts point to key limitations in the law and they are warning conservative states could move to undercut it. Joining us now to discuss this is top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher. He’s ranked as a best family law attorney in California and is a partner at top family law firm Waltzer Melcher LLP. Good morning.

Renee: So this historic bipartisan piece of legislation, it lets hundreds of thousands of same-sex and interracial couples, nationwide, breathe this huge sigh of relief knowing their marriage is protected. Now, can you tell me how significant is this bill that’ll soon become law?

Christopher Melcher: Well, what we’re seeing here is really some cleanup legislation that, first of all, we still have the Defense of Marriage Act on the books that defines marriages between a man and a woman. And so under this new Respect for Marriage Act, it’s making it gender-neutral. It’s just a marriage between two persons. And it leaves to the states to determine any other conditions that they want to put on the issuance of their marriage licenses, subject to constitutional and other restrictions against discrimination. The most important part of the bill is that if a marriage is validly entered into in one state, like say California, that marriage must be recognized by all other states in the US. So that provides a lot of protection in case the US Supreme Court changes its mind on recognizing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. And then third, the bill makes clear that religious organizations can choose which marriages they decide to officiate.


Renee: And can we get a little into the weeds? Can you explain how exactly this Respect for Marriage Act protects same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide? There’s some more detail there.

Christopher Melcher: …Earlier in the year, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade, the right to abortion that it recognized for 50 years, Justice Clarence Thomas, when he co-authored that opinion, said it may be time to re-examine whether same-sex marriage is also recognized by the US Constitution. And the Supreme Court does decide what the Constitution says or doesn’t say. So this was clearly a threat, or a signal, that the US Supreme Court might re-examine its earlier decisions on same-sex marriage. So what the legislature’s trying to do in Congress is to provide some kind of backstop here, some protection, just in case the court protection goes away, that there’ll be protection at the legislative level. And that’s super important because we really would go back to 10 years ago when same-sex couples were treated differently than opposite-sex couples when they would go to apply for a marriage license, or want to enjoy any of the other rights that spouses would have. They were treated like second-class citizens.


Renee: And quickly before we let you go, can you tell me just exactly how strong is this bill? Are marriages now really fully protected?

Christopher Melcher: Well, we already have the protection under the US Supreme Court decision.

Under this bill, it does not say that same-sex marriages are protected. It just says that if a marriage is valid in one state, it has to be recognized all over the place. So it doesn’t go as far as it could have, but it provides some protection.


Renee: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us international family law attorney, Christopher C. Melcher, thank you so much.

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