Marriage Equality Safety Net
Senate passes Respect for Marriage Act, putting marriage equality protections a big step closer to law
The Senate voted 61 to 36 on Tuesday to codify same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law, mostly in case the Supreme Court overturns precedents granting both types of marriage equality constitutional protections nationwide. The bipartisan vote puts the Respect for Marriage Act on a relatively smooth path to President Biden for his signature.
Twelve Republicans joined all Democrats present to pass the measure and send it back to the House. The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act in July, but the Senate modified the bill with bipartisan amendments underscoring protections for religious liberties and clarifying that only marriages between two people will be federally sanctioned. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told NBC News the lower chamber could voted on the modified bill as early as Tuesday. Biden said he will "promptly and proudly" sign it as soon as it lands on his desk.
The Respect for Marriage Act overturns the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and extends federal recognition to same-sex marriage. It doesn't require states to permit same-sex marriages inside their borders, but it does obligate them recognized same-sex and interracial marriages that were legal in the place they were performed. Currently, 35 states would automatically ban same-sex marriage if the Supreme Court overturns its 2015 Obergefell ruling, The Washington Post reports.
Most Republicans voted agains the bill, but the fact that 12 supported it signals a major shift in marriage equality's political fortunes, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "A decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples." He noted he was wearing the same tie he wore to his daughter's wedding to her wife, "one of the happiest moments of my life."