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What does the Respect for Marriage Act mean for Texas couples?

Same-sex couples across the country, like the Masciones from Houston, are celebrating the bill's passage.

HOUSTON — A bill aimed at protecting same-sex and interracial marriages is on its way to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature.

But, there's been a lot of confusion over what the Respect for Marriage Act will actually mean for Texas couples.

“It's monumental. Yes. You know, we needed this," said Toni and Jaclyn Mascione. 

Same-sex couples across the country, like the Masciones from Houston, are celebrating the bill's passage.

“I think that it was just kind of a sigh of relief," they said.

The bill, which was passed on Thursday, requires all valid marriages to be recognized, regardless of "sex, race, ethnicity or national origin."

“This was just another step to reaffirm that, you know, the government stands behind, respecting our fundamental rights," the Masciones said.

Toni and Jaclyn's unique love story took place in two states. They were married in both Colorado and Texas earlier this year, within months of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, amid the prospect that same-sex marriage could be next.

Even with this landmark legislation being passed, federal protections for the marriage of same-sex couples could still linger in the future of the Supreme Court.

“I was very fearful of it," they said. "You know, when I first heard about it, the first thing running through my mind was like, 'Can this be taken away from us?'”

For months, Toni, who's a Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's Office Sergeant and LGBTQ+ Liason for public affairs, and Jaclyn, who owns Alchemy Salon in Houston, faced the thought of having to leave a state they love and the life they built. 

“The fact that we were having to think about those things, it was, it was a very scary moment for us," they said. "Because we can't continue our life if we're not doing it together.” 

While the bill garnered bipartisan support, it stopped short of protecting same-sex marriage in states like Texas, where it could become illegal if the Supreme Court were to overturn its 2015 ruling.

Toni and Jaclyn said they're grateful to have the added insurance of a second state's marriage license.

“We're fortunate that it just happened that way," they said. "We weren't doing it to protect our rights. We were doing it because it was where we wanted to get married.” 

The message this piece of legislation sends to same-sex couples and their futures speaks volumes.

“The government stands with them," the Masciones said. "And they not only respect them, but they recognize them.”

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