Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate


The Senate on Tuesday passed bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex marriages, an extraordinary sign of a shift in national policy on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples who have married since the court ruling of 2015 which legalized homosexuality. nationwide marriage.

The bill, which would ensure same-sex and interracial marriages are enshrined in federal law, was approved 61-36 on Tuesday, with support from 12 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation was long overdue and part of America’s « difficult but inexorable march toward greater equality. »

Democrats are moving quickly, with the party still holding a majority in both houses of Congress, to send the bill to the House and then – they hope – to President Joe Biden’s office. The bill has gained momentum since the June Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal abortion law, a decision that included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that same-sex marriage could also be at risk. . Bipartisan Senate negotiations kicked off this summer when 47 Republicans unexpectedly voted for a House bill and gave supporters new optimism.

The legislation would not require any state to allow same-sex couples to marry. But it would require states to recognize all legal marriages where they took place and protect current same-sex unions, if Obergefell v. Hodges’ 2015 court ruling was to be overturned.

It’s a stunning bipartisan endorsement and proof of societal change, after years of bitter division over the issue.

The bill would also protect interracial marriages by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of « gender, race, ethnicity, or national origin. »

A new law protecting same-sex marriages would be a major victory for Democrats as they relinquish their two years of consolidated power in Washington, and a massive victory for advocates who have been pushing for decades for federal legislation. It comes as the LGBTQ community has faced violent attacks, such as last weekend’s shooting at a Colorado gay nightclub that killed five people and injured at least 17.

« Our community really needs a win, we’ve been through a lot, » said Kelley Robinson, the new chair of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ issues. « As a married queer person, I feel relief right now. I know my family is safe. »

The vote was also personal for many senators. Schumer said Tuesday he wore the tie he wore to his daughter’s wedding, « one of the happiest times of my life. » He also recalled the « heartbreaking conversation » he had with his daughter and wife in September 2020 when they learned that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. “Could our right to marry be revoked? they asked at the time.

With conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ginsburg, the court has now overturned Roe v. Wade and federal abortion rights, stoking fears about Obergefell and other court-protected rights. But sentiment has changed on same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds of the public now in favour.

Still, Schumer said it was notable that the Senate even had the debate after years of Republican opposition. « Ten years ago, it would have stretched all our imaginations to imagine both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples, » he said.

The passage came after the Senate rejected three Republican amendments aimed at protecting the rights of religious institutions and others to still oppose such marriages. Proponents of the legislation argued that these changes were unnecessary because the bill had already been amended to clarify that it does not affect the rights of individuals or businesses that are currently enshrined in law. The bill would also specify that a marriage is between two people, an effort to stave off some far-right criticism that the legislation may condone polygamy.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has been lobbying fellow GOP senators to support the legislation for months, pointed to the number of religious groups backing the bill, including the Church of Jesus. -Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Some of these groups were part of the bipartisan amendment negotiations.

“They see this as a step forward for religious freedom,” Tillis says.

The nearly 17 million-member Utah-based faith said in a statement this month that church doctrine would continue to hold same-sex relationships as contrary to God’s commandments. Still, he said he would support the rights of same-sex couples as long as they did not infringe on the right of religious groups to believe as they see fit.

Most Republicans still oppose the legislation, saying it is unnecessary and citing concerns about religious freedom. And some conservative groups have stepped up their opposition in recent weeks, pressuring Republican supporters to change their votes.

« As I and others have maintained for years, marriage is the exclusive, lifelong conjugal union between a man and a woman, and any deviation from this understanding undermines the indispensable goal of uplifting each child in a stable home by the mother and father who conceived him, » Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in a recent blog post arguing against the bill.

In an effort to win the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a 50-50 Senate filibuster, Democrats postponed consideration until after the midterm elections, hoping it would relieve political pressure on GOP senators who could wobble.

Eventual support from 12 Republicans gave Democrats the votes they needed.

Along with Tillis, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman supported the bill early on and lobbied their GOP colleagues to support it. Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mitt Romney of Utah, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Cynthia also voted for the legislation in two test votes before it is passed. Lummis from Wyoming and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan from Alaska.

Lummis, one of the more conservative members of the Senate, spoke ahead of the final vote of his « pretty blunt introspection » before backing the bill. She said she accepted her church’s beliefs that a marriage is between a man and a woman, but noted that the country was founded on the separation of church and state.

« We are doing well in taking this step, not by embracing or validating each other’s devout views, but by simply tolerating them, » Lummis said.

The growing GOP support for the issue is a stark contrast to even a decade ago, when many Republicans strongly opposed same-sex marriages.

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who is the first openly gay senator and has worked on gay rights issues for nearly four decades, said this month that the new openness of many Republicans on the subject reminded him of « the arc of the LGBTQ2S+ movement to begin with, in the beginning, when people didn’t come out and people knew gay people from myths and stereotypes. »

Baldwin, the Senate’s chief negotiator on the legislation, said that as more individuals and families have become visible, hearts and minds have changed.

« And slowly the laws followed, » she said. « It’s history. »


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