Statement On Senate Passage Of The Respect For Marriage Act

Government and Politics

November 29, 2022

On behalf of Vermonters, today I was proud to vote for the final passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. Today, we became a slightly more perfect union by recognizing the sanctity of marriage between two individuals, regardless of gender or race.

In August of this year, Marcelle and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. Marrying each other was the most important decision of our lives – not a decision taken lightly, but a deeply personal commitment. A decision such as who to spend your life with should not be determined by a state, local, or federal government. It is regrettable that throughout our history, too many Americans have been denied the right to marry who they love based on their gender or race. 

In 2012, I was proud to cosponsor an earlier version of the Respect for Marriage Act to codify the right for all Americans to marry who they love.  As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I also convened the first ever hearing to examine the harmful consequences the Defense of Marriage Act had, and still has, on American families.

I am a proud cosponsor of this version of the Respect for Marriage Act. This bill – as most bills are – is far from perfect, but is a product of a bipartisan compromise.  I want to acknowledge my friend from Wisconsin, Senator Baldwin, whose steadfast resolve is the reason why this bill passed the Senate today.  In the face of Supreme Court Justices determined to turn back the clock on basic rights, a group of bipartisan Senators remained committed to the principle that all legally valid marriages between two people who love and care for each other deserve equal treatment under the law everywhere in our country.

My home state of Vermont is no stranger to making history. Vermont has been a pioneer in the movement for LGBTQ rights.  In 2000, Vermont became the first state to introduce civil unions and the first to offer a civil union status encompassing the same legal rights and responsibilities as marriage. The state again made history in 2009 when it was the first state to allow same-sex marriage without being required to do so through a court decision. Just last year, I was so proud when former Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson became the first openly gay woman to ascend to our federal circuit courts, on the Second Circuit.   

Over the years, I have heard from Vermonters, colleagues, my staff, friends and family on this issue. They have told me what I already know from my marriage to Marcelle. The right to marriage – the right to love someone and build a life with them – should be equally available to all Americans.

As I have said before, when common ground is fertile, we must plant the seeds of progress. And I believe that the Senate did that today by passing the Respect for Marriage Act.