Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate
WASHINGTON – The Senate passed a bill to codify federal recognition of same-sex marriage on Tuesday night, adding religious liberty protections to ensure its bipartisan support.
The 61-36 vote in the chamber now sends the measure to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., predicted earlier Tuesday that it could be passed “as soon as Tuesday” of next week.
If that timetable holds, the bill would be on President Biden’s desk by the end of the week and the measure would become law before Republicans assume the majority in the House at the start of the new Congress in January.
Once signed into law, the bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that the Supreme Court later largely struck down on that grounds that several of its provisions were unconstitutional.
It would also codify federal recognition of same-sex marriages that are legal in the state where the marriage was performed.
Though the bill does not go as far as some had hoped in terms of protecting same-sex and interracial marriages as constitutional rights, advocates for the bill said it will make it more unlikely that the Supreme Court will revisit the precedents that granted those rights.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor of the Senate Tuesday that the bill’s victory had come “after months of hard work … many rounds of bipartisan talks … and after many doubts that we could even reach this point.”
He also made a point of applauding the Republicans who voted in favor of advancing the legislation.
“Because of our work together, the rights of tens of millions of Americans will be strengthened under federal law. That’s an accomplishment we should all be proud of,” Schumer said.
The House passed a similar bill in July that would mandate that all states honor out-of-state marriages regardless of the race, gender or sexual orientation of the couple.
But Republicans in the 50-50 Senate balked at that version of the bill, leading to weeks of negotiations of a substitute measure.
The current version of the bill includes narrower provisions on same-sex marriage and included language to protect religious organizations’ nonprofit status.
In a statement released after the vote, President Joe Biden said, “With today’s bipartisan Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, the United States is on the brink of reaffirming a fundamental truth: love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.
“For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled,” the president continued. “It will also ensure that, for generations to follow, LGBTQI+ youth will grow up knowing that they, too, can lead full, happy lives and build families of their own.
“Importantly, the Senate’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is a bipartisan achievement. I’m grateful to the determined members of Congress — especially Senators Baldwin, Collins, Portman, Sinema, Tillis and Feinstein — whose leadership has underscored that Republicans and Democrats together support the essential right of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples to marry.
I look forward to welcoming them at the White House after the House passes this legislation and sends it to my desk, where I will promptly and proudly sign it into law,” Biden said.