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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

House Passes Same-Sex Marriage Protections, Sending Bill to Biden’s Desk

The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act in 258-169 vote on Thursday. The historic bill repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and ensures that all states across the country will recognize same-sex marriages should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that guaranteed the right to marriage for same-sex couples nationally in 2015.

The bill passed the House with the support of 39 Republicans, after 12 Republicans voted for it in the Senate. It was one of a few bills congressional Democrats aimed to quickly pass before the new Congress—which includes a new Republican House majority—takes over in January. It will soon head to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated the passage of the bill on Thursday as one of the last she will vote for in her role as the Democrats’ leader before she steps down. “Today we stand up for the values the vast majority of Americans hold dear, a belief in the dignity, beauty, and divinity,” she said on the House floor prior to the vote. “Today this chamber proudly stands with forces of freedom, not going back, and justice.”


Democrats said they felt an urgency to codify same-sex marriage rights after the Supreme Court overturned landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade in June. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion that the high court should reconsider its decisions in Obergefell and Griswold v. Connecticut, a case that guaranteed married couples could access to birth control, because they all were rooted in the same interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 case that guaranteed protection of interracial marriages, was similarly decided, and the Respect for Marriage Act passed today also includes protections for interracial couples.

The bill’s passage also comes as state legislatures in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, and elsewhere have passed or promoted bills that have been criticized as anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ. In March, Florida Governor signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill into state law, which prevents teachers from discussing their sexual orientation in the classroom or teaching subjects sexual orientation and gender identity in certain grade levels. In 2021, Texas introduced over 30 anti-LGBTQ bills, and passed a bill in January banning trans youth from playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity. It also comes nearly three weeks after a mass shooter at an LGBTQ night club in Colorado Springs killed five people and wounded 17 others.

Read More: How the Republican Party Has Evolved on Same-Sex Marriage

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national nonprofit that advocates for the rights of the LGBTQ community, said she was in the Capitol when the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act last month. “I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit overcome with emotion. Like, I felt joy, I felt relief,” she told TIME in an interview prior to the House vote on Tuesday. “There haven’t been so many times in my adult life where I’ve actually seen my experience as a black queer woman validated in the halls of government.”


What does the Respect for Marriage Act do?

The bill repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill passed in 1996 that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and allowed states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

There are 35 states in the U.S. that ban same-sex marriage, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures and Stateline. Should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that ruled the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples under the U.S. Constitution, those state bans could again go into effect. The Respect for Marriage Act requires that all states, even if they cease issuing same-sex marriage licenses, have to recognize marriages performed in other states.

“It protects the status quo,” Robinson says. “It ensures that if you are married, legally married, or if you get married in the future in a state that allows the celebration, that your rights are protected no matter where you move, where you live, or if you’re traveling across state lines.”

The bill also requires states to similarly recognize interracial marriages, protecting the rights guaranteed in Loving v. Virginia.


A group of bipartisan Senators, led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, struggled to find Republican support for the bill prior to the midterm elections in early November. The vote was pushed back to after the election, and the Senators included an amendment to the bill that includes explicit religious freedom protections in order to get Republicans on board.

from TIME
via Time.com

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