The Respect for Marriage Act – The MFT Perspective

Just last week, the Respect for Marriage Act passed in the House 258-169, marking an incredibly historic moment for not only the country, but also for marriage and family therapists. The first version of this bill was originally introduced back in 2009 and was reintroduced into Congress this past summer. The revised version still included protections for same-sex marriages, but now extends protections to interracial couples. The Senate previously passed the bill in November. 

The bill is on its way to Biden’s desk, which he says upon House passage of the bill, President Biden said he “looks forward to signing into law” this landmark legislation. Biden writes, The House’s bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act—by a significant margin—will give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples who are now guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled.” Biden signed the bill yesterday afternoon during a large celebration at the White House, marking a huge step forward for the field of marriage and family therapy.  

This past year, the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (JMFT) released its Decade In Review a special issue released every ten years that reviews what the past 10 years of systemic therapy research has to say about various topics within the field. This review included a special article on how couple and family therapy research can reduce mental health disparities for racially and ethnically diverse populations. The article reviewed research surrounding minority, interracial and LGBTQI+ couples, advocating for their inclusion in systemic therapy research and studies in order to advance the field.  

LGBTQI+ individuals are already more likely to struggle with issues like depression and anxiety, due to the stigmas and discrimination they face. Similarly, interracial couples face issues with stereotyping, isolation, negative comments, and rejection, which can often lead and contribute to mental health issues. These mental health concerns impact more than just the individual– they affect the entire family, marriage, and relationship structure. Thus, marriage and family therapy can help address and resolve these issues from a systemic perspective, mitigating any stressors or implications they may cause in marriages.  

JMFT’s Decade in Review article on mental health disparities noted that only 68 of the 271 (25%) articles they examined included predominantly racial/ethnic minority samples or globally underserved populations. Among the 60 relevant articles examined, there was a pattern of inattention to methodological considerations relevant to diverse populations. LGBTQI+ and interracial couples deserve to have the mental health and marriage therapy resources they need to maintain healthy relationships. The passing of this bill is just the first step towards including, accepting, and appreciating LGBTQI and interracial couples, both inside and outside the therapy room. 

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