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What Is the Respect for Marriage Act and Why Should Couples Care?

The Knot

Politicians aren't the only ones to eagerly anticipate the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), a long overdue, yet groundbreaking bill that would protect same-sex and interracial marriage on a federal level. Couples and members of the wedding industry are also following the proposed bill, which has since been delayed by a bipartisan coalition of US Senators. The vote for the bill has now been postponed until after the midterm elections on November 8.

Needless to say, it's surprising to many that DOMA, also known as the Defense of Marriage Act, still reigns supreme. Passed in 1996, DOMA imposes a federal ban on same-sex marriages and denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who were married under state law, explains Alan Feigenbaum, a matrimonial and family law attorney at Blank Rome LLP in Philadelphia. "DOMA allowed states to refuse to recognize marriages of same-sex couples granted in another state," he says. DOMA also defines marriage as one between a man and a woman, another concept that feels outdated in a world of inclusivity and in one that celebrates all love. Read below why all couples should care about the proposed bill.


The title of this bill alone pleads the point that marriage is something that should be respected. For this reason, Feigenbaum hopes that this bill brings about a deeper discussion on marriage, specifically what it really means to "tie the knot."

"With divorce rates sky high, it's important to focus on the fundamentals that make a marriage work—not the old-school and traditional aspects such as women taking the last name of the men they marry," he says. "Perhaps Representative Nancy Mace said it best on Twitter: 'If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them. Trust me, I've tried it more than once.'"

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"What Is the Respect for Marriage Act and Why Should Couples Care?" by Jenn Sinrich was published in The Knot on September 21, 2022.