U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

December 3, 2022

Marriage Equality for All.

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

The moment Myrna and I were married in November 1964, we immediately were eligible for hundreds of new benefits as a couple. From taxes to health care, banking, insurance, even rental cars, and more. The legally binding changes were instantaneous.

The idea that suddenly the Supreme Court could invalidate our marriage sounds a bit far-fetched, but for thousands of Marylanders and millions of Americans in legally binding same-sex marriages, this has been a dark cloud hanging over their families since last summer when the Supreme Court overturned 50 years of precedent in its radical Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

In that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurrence that warned the Court should “reconsider, [in future cases], all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” These decisions protected the right to access contraception, the right to have same-sex relations, and the right to enter into a same-sex marriage, respectively.

Do most Americans really want to turn back the clock on these civil rights, in terms of being able to responsibly plan the size of their family, make personal medical and health care decision with their doctors, and fall in love and marry the partner of their choosing, regardless of their gender? I don’t think so.

Without a doubt, public opinion and the law have changed significantly over the years. Today, according to the Human Rights Campaign and a recent Gallup poll, 71% of Americans support marriage equality, compared to only about 27% in 1996, when President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 

It was only in 2010 that Maryland began to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states. In 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley signed a law guaranteeing Marylanders the freedom to marry regardless of their gender. That law was later upheld and confirmed by the voters of Maryland in a statewide referendum.

In 2015, the Supreme Court held in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the Constitution protected the right of same-sex couples to marry, and therefore granting this right nationwide. Marylanders in loving, committed same-sex relationships were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief that their legal marriages would be recognized wherever they traveled or lived across the country.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in this historic decision: “Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.”

But here we are in 2022, waiting to see what historic precedent the Supreme Court will overturn next and what civil rights it may carelessly strip away.

I am proud that Maryland has state-level protections in place to preserve the sanctity of same-sex marriage, but Congress had to ensure that such fundamental rights are respected at the national level. This week, I was proud to cast a vote for H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, which recognizes protections for same-sex and inter-racial couples, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 and guarantees that legal marriages performed in one state are given full faith and credit by every other state. On a bipartisan basis, Congress reaffirmed that the right of loving, same-sex couples to marry should be upheld and not taken away.

Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is another bipartisan accomplishment for this Congress and it marks an important step forward on our unfinished march for civil rights and a more perfect union that guarantees equal rights and equal justice under the law for all Americans.

President Biden had it correct when he stated: “No person should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love, and every married couple in the United States deserves the security of knowing that their marriage will be defended and respected.”

As Marylanders and as a nation, we must stand united and firm in the face of injustice and continue to proclaim that love is, and always will be, love.    

Thank you for your time today. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this or any other topic.


Ben Cardin