Senate Republicans Clear Path For Federal Marriage Law

Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats are scrambling to pass federal legislation protecting same-sex marriages nationwide before the House returns to GOP control in January, and a substantial number of Senate Republicans have cleared the way for it to happen. On Tuesday, the Senate passed the “Respect for Marriage Act” by a vote of 61 to 36, with support from 11 Republicans.

The legislation is designed to require the federal government to recognize all forms of marriage legal in any state to be valid nationwide. Of course, that includes same-sex marriage and any other forms of marriage that a single state might validate.

The bill now moves to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to introduce it for a floor vote just days before the next Congress is sworn in on January 3. If it indeed passes in the House, it will move to the desk of Joe Biden, who is expected to enthusiastically sign the bill into law with great fanfare.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Tuesday night that the Senate is “sending a message to every American” that “no matter who you love, you, too, deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law.” He also praised the Republicans who supported the bill.

Schumer added, “Today, we have vindication.”

Several last-minute amendments were proposed on Tuesday, largely dealing with protections of religious freedom regarding marriage recognition. The only amendment that was successfully adopted was one that provides that “nonprofit religious organizations shall not be required to provide services” for a marriage ceremony it opposes.

The bill was introduced this summer in direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson that overruled its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In a concurring opinion,

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he believes the court should reconsider some other cases in light of the ruling in Dobbs. One such case is Obergefell v. Hodges, a 5-4 decision in 2015 that same-sex marriages are protected by “substantive due process” under the Fourteenth Amendment.

None of the other justices joined with Thomas in his concurring opinion, but his opinion became a major campaign talking point for Democrats who sparked fear among progressive voters that the court is poised to roll back same-sex marriage protection.

The Republicans who voted in favor of the bill were Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Todd Young (R-IN).

That same group voted earlier in November to move the bill past the Senate filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes to advance ordinary legislation.