Sodom and Gomorrah: U.S. Senate Passes Respect for Marriage Act in Bipartisan Vote

On Tuesday night the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, approving historic legislation that provides federal protections for same-sex marriages as well as protection for interracial marriage. The bill passed the evenly divided upper chamber 61 to 36, with 12 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats.

The bill needed 60 votes to pass and the legislation garnered support from a wider margin of GOP Senators after it was amended to include provisions protecting religious liberty. 

The legislation will go back to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to clear, since the lower chamber approved the legislation in July with 47 Republicans joining all 220 Democrats in support. It will then be sent to President Biden’s desk for his signature, which he has already agreed to sign, in the final weeks of the Democratic-controlled Congress.

If signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act would affirm that states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, in accordance with the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor after the bill’s passage, “What a great day.”

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The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June, unraveling the constitutional right to an abortion. Concerned that other Supreme Court decisions, including those that protected the right to same-sex marriage, could be in jeopardy. Democrats moved to enshrine the right to marriage equality into federal law.

Democrats began pushing for the legislation in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, although Justice Samuel Alito made clear in his majority opinion that the Court is not considering reversing its same-sex marriage ruling. Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to do so in a concurrence.

The bill repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and safeguards interracial marriages by requiring that valid marriages are recognized regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.”

The expected passage of the bill by both chambers of Congress demonstrates the significant shift in views on same-sex marriage, with support from Americans reaching a record high last year, according to a June 2021 Gallup poll. Despite the widespread public support, 37 Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, opposed moving the marriage equality legislation forward, and a number of Republicans voted against final passage of the bill.

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