Respect for Marriage Act Would Remove Barriers to Care Stemming from Discrimination

Bill Would Help Ensure Access to Comprehensive Health Care for Same-Sex and Interracial Married Couples

November 29, 2022

Washington, D.C. – November 29, 2022 --  The U.S. Senate voted today on legislation that would help ensure marriage equality for same-sex and interracial couples and their families, as well as protect their ability to access employment benefits, such as health insurance.

The Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404/S. 4556) would require the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. The bill would also guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.

The American Cancer Society, through its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) supports this legislation as it is critical to reducing barriers and ensuring access to affordable, comprehensive health care, including cancer care, for all individuals. ACS CAN signed onto a letter to senators with dozens of other of health, education, human services, social justice and professional organizations urging passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. The legislation would combat stigma and disparity which for too long has limited access to high quality health care for communities the organizations represent.

“It is our position that every person deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer,” said Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN. “No one should fear that marriage-related employment benefits, such as health insurance, could be threatened and therefore jeopardize access to care when facing a cancer diagnosis.”

Many barriers can impact a person's ability to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer. These obstacles can include homophobia and transphobia, poverty, structural racism, limited access to the health care system and insurance coverage, and negative experiences with health care providers. Racial bias and discrimination in health care and every other aspect of society can also contribute to poor health for many racial and ethnic groups, including LGBTQ+ people of color.


“Ending cancer as we know it for everyone requires ensuring that all individuals can access health care benefits without fear of discrimination,” said Knudsen. “ACS CAN urges the House to act quickly and pass this legislation.”

Media Contacts

Trista Hargrove
Director, Media Advocacy
Alissa Crispino
SVP, Advocacy Communications and Policy