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Senate Votes to Advance Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

November 16, 2022 by Dan McCue
Senate Votes to Advance Same-Sex Marriage Legislation
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters following a closed-door policy meeting on the Democrats' lame-duck agenda, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — A bill that would protect same-sex and interracial marriages cleared a major hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday after 12 Republicans joined every Democrat in the chamber in voting to proceed with consideration of enshrining those unions under federal law.

The 62-37 vote in favor of invoking cloture on H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, comes two months after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., put off a vote on the measure until after the midterm elections.

The act, which the House passed a version of in July, would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and force states without marriage equality laws to honor marriages from other states.

Ahead of the vote, Schumer said passing the legislation would enable the Senate to “live up to its highest ideals.”

“No one in a same-sex marriage or an interracial marriage should have to worry if their marriage will be invalidated,” the majority leader said.

“No one should be discriminated against because of who they love,” he continued, adding that the bill “will make our country a better, fairer place to live.”

The Republicans who voted for the bill were Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri; Richard Burr of North Carolina; Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia; Susan Collins of Maine; Joni Ernest of Iowa; Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Rob Portman of Ohio; Mitt Romney of Utah; Dan Sullivan of Alaska; Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Todd Young of Indiana.

The only senator not voting either way was Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

The effort to pass the Respect for Marriage Act was inspired by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the ruling in June that struck down federal legal protections for a woman’s right to an abortion.

Thomas, a member of the 6-3 conservative majority in that ruling, suggested he would have gone much further.

“In future cases,” he wrote, “we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

The House quickly passed the Respect for Marriage Act, 267-157, garnering 47 Republican votes.

The vote to invoke cloture sets the bill up for a final vote in the Senate by the end of the week.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the only openly gay member in the chamber, said the act would unite all Americans and remove the fear that many same-sex and interracial couples have felt since last summer that their rights could simply be taken away.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said such couples deserved no less and can now rest assured that their “marriage is — and always will be — valid.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the bill is also in line with the beliefs of a vast majority of Americans.

“Americans overwhelmingly support marriage equality and believe all married couples — regardless of race or sex — deserve equal protection under the law,” he said via Twitter.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in June, 71% of Americans support marriage for same-sex couples. 

Broken down by party affiliation, Gallup found 55% of Republicans support same-sex marriage, along with 83% of Democrats and 73% of independents. 

After Wednesday’s vote, Kelley Robinson, incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization — said in a written statement that “the devastating United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a clear reminder that we are just one Supreme Court decision away from losing too many of our hard fought for rights.”

“In the concurring opinion, Justice Thomas made the outrageous suggestion that Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges should be next to be challenged,” she continued. “It is clear there is an urgent, dire need to ensure, once and for all, that the days of debate around marriage equality are over. The will of the people is on our side.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is an essential piece of legislation that affirms that every marriage, and every family, is valid and beautiful,” Robinson said. “Today’s strong bipartisan vote of 62-37 for cloture is an incredible victory that cannot be taken lightly — this vote was the bill’s biggest procedural roadblock, and now we steer our focus forward to the Senate’s final vote on this historic legislation. Our work is not done.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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