The United States Senate voted 61 to 36 to pass a bill respecting the Marriage Act, a bill that enshrines protections for same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law.
12 Republicans Join 49 Democrats in Supporting Landmark Bill Banning States from Rejecting “Out-of-State Marriages on the Basis of Sex, Race, Ethnicity, or Nationality” Did.
The bill also “repeals and replaces” federal language that defines marriage as heterosexual.
Tuesday’s bipartisan victory comes in the final week of a Democratic-dominated Congress. The bill is now back in the House and will transition to Republican leadership when the 118th Congress is sworn in on January 3.
In a speech minutes before the vote, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the bill’s bipartisan support and said he planned to call his daughter and wife to congratulate him.
“For millions of Americans, today is a very good day. It’s a big day. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for,” Schumer said.
“The long but unrelenting march to greater equality is moving forward. By passing this bill, the Senate is sending a message that all Americans need to hear: Who You Are or who you love, you too deserve dignity and equal treatment before the law.
But hours before Tuesday’s vote, Senate Republicans like Oklahoma’s James Lankford raised fears that the Respect for Marriage Act would overshadow religious freedom in the United States, prompting additional amendments to the bill. proposed.
“Is today about respecting everyone’s rights, or is it about silencing some and respecting others?” Lankford said.
A Gallup poll shows that support for same-sex marriage in the United States will reach a record 70% in 2021. It was also the first time Gallup recorded a majority of Republicans supporting same-sex marriage, at 55%. percent.
“Current federal law does not reflect the will or belief of Americans in this regard,” said Ohio Republican Rob Portman in a Nov. 16 speech in support of the Respect Marriage Act. said. valid same-sex marriage. ”
Since 2015, the Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v Hodges has guaranteed the right of same-sex couples to marry. However, laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 define marriage as “one man and her one woman” and deny the federal government recognition of same-sex couples. but there was no coercion.
The Respect for Marriage Act does not codify the Obergefel decision, but it does repeal laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act. It also requires states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they took place and to protect existing same-sex marriages.
The current move to pass the Marriage Respect Act comes after a June Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned half a century of protections against access to abortion.
At Monday’s Senate meeting, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden pointed to Dobbs’ decision as his motivation to vote in favor of the bill.
“Some members of this agency are wondering why we need to pass this bill when marriage equality is the law of the country,” Wyden said. It’s very simple: Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade, showed the Senate’s inability to take modern precedent for granted.”
The Dobbs majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, denied that the ruling would affect non-abortion jurisprudence.
However, a concurring opinion filed by Justice Clarence Thomas calls for the court to “reconsider all of the court’s substantive due process precedents” and cites the 2015 Obergefell decision among them.
On July 19, just weeks after Dobbs’ decision, House Democrats passed the Respect Marriage Act with the support of 47 Republicans. It was a surprise bipartisan vote that showed a clear division in Republican attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
The Republican top house, including minority leaders Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise, voted against the bill, while the third-ranked Republican, New York’s Elise Stefanik, voted in favor.
After passing the House, the Marriage Respect Act faced steeper odds in an evenly divided Senate that needed 60 votes to overcome the filibuster.
Senate Democrats delayed a vote on the bill until the United States held midterm elections to ease pressure on Republicans and gain greater bipartisan support. , called for multiple amendments to the bill.
The bill passed Tuesday contains language that explicitly bans polygamous marriages and does not allow the bill to target or deny government benefits, including tax-exempt status, based on religious beliefs. It should not be used for any purpose. In Monday’s test poll, 12 Republicans joined Senate Democrats in voting in favor of the amendment bill.
Religious groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) have also voiced their support for the bill, praising it as “protecting religious freedom while respecting the law and protecting the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.” .
“It’s worth noting that the Senate has had this debate from the beginning,” Schumer said Monday. “Ten years ago, it would have strained all our imaginations to imagine both sides discussing defending the rights of same-sex couples.”
But before Tuesday’s vote, senators including Lankford and Florida’s Marco Rubio proposed further amendments to the bill.
Fellow Republican Portman urged his party on Tuesday to support the Respect for Marriage Act. It was dismissed as a “false” concern that it might be targeted.
Portman said the bill “reflects national policy to respect diverse beliefs about gender and the role of marriage while also protecting the rights of same-sex couples.”
Another Republican, Cynthia Ramis of Wyoming, told the Senate that she believed in “God’s word on the definition of marriage” but supported the Marriage Respect Act.
“These are turbulent times for our country,” Ramis said, citing an increase in fiery rhetoric. “We do well by taking this step by the simple act of tolerating each other’s godly opinions rather than accepting or validating them.”