The United States Senate voted 61 to 36 to pass the bill Respect for marriage lawa bill that would enshrine protections of same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law.
Twelve Republicans joined the 49 Democrats in attendance in supporting the landmark piece of legislation, which bans states from “denying out-of-state marriages based on sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”
The bill also “withdraws and replaces” any federal language that defines marriage as between persons of the opposite sex.
Tuesday’s bipartisan victory comes in the final weeks of the Democratic-controlled Congress. The bill now returns to the House of Representatives, which is expected to shift Republican leadership when the 118th Congress is sworn in on January 3.
In a speech minutes before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, applauded the bill’s bipartisan support and said he planned to call his daughter and her wife to celebrate.
“Today is a very good day for millions of Americans. An important day. A day that has been long overdue,” said Schumer.
“The long but inexorable march towards greater equality is moving forward. By passing this bill, the Senate is sending a message every American needs to hear: No matter who you are or who you love, you too deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law.”
But in the hours before Tuesday’s vote, Senate Republicans like Oklahoma’s James Lankford expressed fears that the Respect for Marriage Act would hinder religious freedom in the US and proposed additional amendments to the bill.
“Is today about respecting everyone’s rights, or is it about silencing some and respecting others?” Lankford said.
A Gallup poll found that support for same-sex marriage in the US had reached an all-time high of 70 percent by 2021. It also marked the first time Gallup registered a majority of Republicans in favor of same-sex marriage, at 55 percent. per cent.
“Current federal law does not reflect the will or beliefs of the American people in this regard,” Ohio Republican Rob Portman said in a speech in support of the Respect for Marriage Act on Nov. 16. valid same-sex marriages.”
Since 2015, the Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v Hodges guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry. But laws like the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act — which defined marriage as between “one man and one woman” and denied federal recognition to same-sex couples — remained on the books, though unenforceable.
While the Respect for Marriage Act would not codify the Obergefell ruling, it would repeal laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act. It would also require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they occurred and protect current same-sex unions.
The current push to pass the Respect for Marriage Act came in the wake of the June Supreme Court ruling Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthat overturned half a century of protections for access to abortion.
In a Senate session Monday, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden pointed to the Dobbs decision as motivation to vote in favor of the bill.
“Some members of this body have questioned why we need to pass this law when marriage equality is the law of the land,” Wyden said. “The answer is quite simple. The Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, showed that the Senate cannot take any modern legal precedent for granted.”
The majority opinion in the Dobbs decision, written by Judge Samuel Alito, denied that the ruling would affect court precedents outside of abortion.
But a concurring opinion, submitted by Judge Clarence Thomas, suggested the court should “reconsider all substantive due process precedents of this court,” citing the 2015 Obergefell decision among them.
On July 19, just weeks after the Dobbs decision, House Democrats passed the Respect for Marriage Act with the support of 47 Republicans — a surprise bipartisan vote that signaled a clear break in Republican attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
Top House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise, opposed the bill, while the number three Republican, Elise Stefanik of New York, voted in favor.
After passing the House, the Respect for Marriage Act faced greater odds in the evenly split Senate, where it took 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
Senate Democrats delayed a vote on the bill until after the US midterm elections in an effort to ease pressure on Republicans and garner more bipartisan support. Republicans pushed for multiple amendments to the bill on the grounds of protecting religious freedom.
The bill passed Tuesday contained language that explicitly banned polygamous marriages and ensured that the bill cannot be used to address or deny government benefits, including tax-exempt status, based on religious affiliation. In a test vote on Monday, 12 Republicans along with Senate Democrats voted in favor of the amended bill.
Religious groups also offered their support for the bill, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which applauded the bill for its “protection of religious freedom while respecting the law and protecting the rights of our LGBTQ people.” brothers and sisters will be preserved”.
“It’s remarkable that the Senate is having this debate to begin with,” Schumer said Monday. “Ten years ago, it would have strained all our imaginations to imagine both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples.”
But Tuesday’s vote was preceded by further proposed amendments to the bill, from Florida senators including Lankford and Marco Rubio.
Portman, a fellow Republican, on Tuesday urged his party to support the Respect for Marriage Act. He dismissed the concerns as “false” concerns that the bill would leave “institutions and individuals seeking to live by their sincere beliefs” vulnerable to litigation.
The bill, Portman said, “reflects a national policy that respects differing views on the roles of gender and marriage while also protecting the rights of same-sex couples.”
Another Republican, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, told the Senate that while she believes in “God’s word regarding the definition of marriage,” she would support the Respect for Marriage Act.
“These are turbulent times for our nation,” Lummis said, referring to an increase in heated rhetoric. “We would do well to take this step, not by embracing or validating each other’s pious views, but simply by tolerating them.”