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In Support of the "Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act of 2023”

Published Monday, Jul. 24th, 2023

Our efforts to protect marriage equality must continue!



U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley introduced legislation earlier this month that would remove gendered words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ from existing federal marriage laws in order to strengthen protections for marriage equality at the federal level. 


This is an important piece of legislation, and we’d like to take a minute or two to talk about it. 


Called the ‘Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act of 2023,’ H.R. 4602 would revise several existing federal laws by replacing instances of ‘wives’ and ‘husbands’ with gender-neutral terms like ‘spouse,’ ‘married person,’ or ‘married couple.’ All other parts of these laws would remain untouched.



We believe these technical amendments are necessary. Gender-neutral marriage laws would strengthen protections for marriage equality at the federal level, and align these laws with the reality (and legal validity) of gender-diverse marriages. 


Some marriages don’t consist of a husband and wife, and our country’s marriage laws should reflect, protect, and respect that. That’s marriage equality! 


Critics of the legislation have implied that the bill is a waste of lawmakers’ time. U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, a Republican from Wyoming, has called the measure "woke messaging," saying that voters don’t care about gay marriage and that bill was only introduced to distract from larger issues like inflation or higher gas prices. (via Cowboy State Daily) 


We strongly disagree with this criticism. The amendments proposed by H.R. 4602 aren’t symbolic. And they’re certainly not a waste of time or a distraction from larger issues. 


The truth is that an overwhelming majority of Americans, 71% as of this year, do support the marriage rights of LGBTQ+ people. Marriage equality is a large issue, especially now, having become increasingly vulnerable in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v Jackson. 


Related: The Threat to Same-Sex Marriage in a Post-Roe World

This bill isn’t a waste of lawmakers’ time – it’s right on time! 


As the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Brownley (D-California), said in a recent statement, 


“Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the right to marry, there are many instances where the U.S. Code does not respect that constitutional right. 


Now more than ever, with an extreme Supreme Court and state legislatures rolling back the rights of the LGBTQ community, it is imperative that Congress showcases its commitment to supporting equality… 


This common-sense bill will ensure that our federal code reflects the equality of all marriages by recognizing and acting upon the notion that the words in our laws have meaning and our values as a country are reflected in our laws."  


Read Rep. Brownley’s full statement here.


We agree. LGBTQ+ married couples have a right to see themselves accurately represented in federal law, and lawmakers have a responsibility to use language that explicitly protects the right of LGBTQ+ people to marry. 


Why are some lawmakers against using gender-neutral terms in marriage laws? 


Some critics of the bill might find gender-neutral marriage laws offensive because the language doesn’t reflect their individual religious beliefs about marriage – specifically the belief that marriage is a holy covenant that can only be entered into by a cisgender man and a cisgender woman. These opponents might see the replacement of words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ as a direct attack on their concept of marriage.


But the beliefs of individual religious groups shouldn’t carry much weight when it comes to writing or revising laws (no matter how loudly they talk about it). The government views marriage as a legal union – not a religious one. 


In fact, our Federal Government’s continued dedication to marriage equality is essential in protecting the constitutional rights of the many different religious and non religious groups that make up our country. Drafting laws that only reflect a single religious group’s beliefs would impinge upon the rights of all other groups, and that’s unconstitutional.


We respect the religious practices of all people, to the extent that they don’t harm other people. We believe that marriage is sacred, and that it’s the right of all people to get married and to solemnize marriage. That’s marriage equality! 


That’s why gender-neutral marriage laws, and legislation like this, are so important.



Read Next: 


Photo shows a wife and husband kissing at the altar during their marriage ceremony, the husband is sitting in a wheelchair

Does a disabled person lose their benefits if they get married? Probably, and that needs to change! Read the full article here. 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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