The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and allows the federal government in the United States to provide benefits to couples in same sex marriages, although it does not compel individual states to recognize same sex marriages. It is supported by the Religious Action Center, Catholics for Equality, Change.org, and Human Rights Campaign among others.
In recent Florida news, the Miami GOP Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen joined the ranks of supporters for the Respect for Marriage Act. As the first and only GOP congressperson to co-sponsor the act, she has received both support and backlash from a number of organizations. The Christian Family Coalition is one of those speaking out against her decision, claiming that her support of the act could be viewed as deception to her constituents, donors, and volunteers. She was also attacked in a letter from the National Organization for Marriage, saying they were disappointed and deeply concerned by her abandonment of “traditional Republican principles of marriage, family, and democratic self government.”
On the flip side, there are far more organizations who are applauding her decision. She has been supported in her decision by both the Log Cabin Republicans, and the Freedom to Marry Group Equality Florida, a group that works to secure equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, saying that Ros-Lehtinen is a long time supporter. She was also a 2010 Voice for Equality Award honoree for her work to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and was a founder of the Congressional LGBT Equity Caucus.
What effect could the Respect for Marriage Act have on today’s same sex couples?
Let’s take a look at the Census update on Same-Sex Couples:
Recently, the United States Census Bureau put an official number on the amount of same-sex couples who are married in the United States – 131,729. This is the first time an official number has been calculated of those who are married and not just in domestic partnerships, which makes it seem like there is a decrease over past inclusive numbers. In Florida, the number of married same-sex couples reached almost 6,800, with 3,585 married male couples and 3,199 married female couples. The US Census Bureau also estimated that there are around 48,500 same sex couples total – both married and unmarried – in the state of Florida, and approximately 515,000 in the United States total.
The numbers were calculated based on two questions from the Census form: one asking the relationship to householder and another asking the sex of each person. It is possible that some opposite-sex married or unmarried couples filled out their forms wrong which could account for some inflation of the numbers, but they should hold fairly accurate as they have been reviewed and approved by three outside experts at UCLA and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
These figures were among the most highly anticipated statistics collected with the 2010 census. While this is the third census that has recognized same-sex couples, it is the first census since gay marriage became legal. Although not yet legal in Florida, it is legal in six states, and it is important that this portion of the population be accounted for.