US Senate Passes Respect for Marriage Act

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The amended marriage equality bill now goes back to the House of Representatives before heading to President Biden.

The U.S. Senate voted 61-36 Tuesday to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which will write marriage equality into federal law, maintaining it even if the Supreme Court overturns its 2015 ruling that established equal marriage rights nationwide.

The bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives, but the Senate added an amendment to it aimed at protecting religious freedom, so the new version needs to be voted on by the House before it can go to President Joe Biden for his expected signature.

“Today, after many rounds of bipartisan talks and after many doubts that we could even reach this point, we are taking the momentous step forward for greater justice for LGBTQ Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote.

He said the first person he would call after the vote would be his daughter Alison, who is in a same-sex marriage.

“What a great day,” he added after the vote finished.

Right before the vote, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first out member of the body, offered a note of thanks: “I want to thank the advocates who have been fighting for marriage equality for decades and I want to recognize the millions of same-sex and interracial couples who have truly made this moment possible by living their true selves and changing the hearts and minds of people around this country.”

The push for the Respect for Marriage Act came after Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in 2015, should be overturned. He did so in his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the June ruling in which the court overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking the nationwide guarantee of abortion rights. There is no case currently making its way through the courts challenging Obergefell, but Thomas and other conservatives have made clear they would welcome one.

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