Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes House, Goes To Biden For Signature
The US House, in a bipartisan vote, passed legislation that would provide federal protection for same-sex marriages, sending the measure to President Joe Biden to sign into law.
(Bloomberg) -- The US House, in a bipartisan vote, passed legislation that would provide federal protection for same-sex marriages, sending the measure to President Joe Biden to sign into law.
Passage of the bill is a victory for Democrats who had raised concerns that the US Supreme Court could next reverse rights for same-sex couples after it overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that established the constitutional right to an abortion.
“Congress must take this opportunity to provide additional reassurance to the many American families who have come to rely on this guarantee,” Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said Thursday. “After all, we were told the right to abortion was settled law, also.”
The House voted 258-169 on Thursday to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. The House previously passed the measure in July, but it had to be taken up again after the Senate amended the bill to include religious liberty provisions.
Thirty-nine House Republicans joined all Democrats in support of the measure.
Biden said in a statement last week that he would “promptly” sign the bill when it came to his desk.
In his concurring opinion on the Dobbs case decision that reversed Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should review other “due process precedents” including the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that required all states to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
If Obergefell v. Hodges were to be overturned by the Supreme Court, the matter on marriage licenses would go back to the states where some still have constitutional bans on the books.
“We will not leave it to the forces of hate and the relics of the past to be the final word on the fate of love,” Democratic Representative Ritchie Torres, the first openly gay Afro-Latino person elected to Congress, said Thursday. “We in the LGBTQ community will be the arbiters of our own legal equality and the authors of our own marital destiny.”
The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage under US law as between a man and a woman. It would also extend all federal benefits to all married couples.
Though it would not require states to issue same-sex marriage licenses as the Obergefell ruling does, it would require them to recognize marriage licenses issued legally in other states regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.
New language was added by the Senate to ensure that the measure does not infringe on religious liberty and conscience protections. Non-profit religious organizations would not be required to provide services for any marriage celebration. It also prohibits the bill from being used to deny or alter benefits unrelated to marriage, such as a church or other nonprofit organization’s tax-exempt status.
Some Republicans said the bill was unnecessary and raised doubt about whether the Supreme Court would ever overturn the Obergefell ruling. Some also argued that the bill would infringe on religious rights and protections, despite the new language.
“Democrats have conjured up this non-existent threat based on one line in Justice Thomas’ concurrence in Dobbs,” Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, said Thursday. “And they are misunderstanding, or deliberately misrepresenting what Justice Thomas wrote.”
Passage comes as other challenges to the rights of same-sex couples are being mounted. The Supreme Court earlier this week heard arguments in a case regarding a Colorado website designer who said she has a constitutional right to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings, a clash that pits equality against free speech.
The court’s conservative justices hinted support for the designer’s idea that the state’s anti-discrimination law should not require her to create a website for same-sex couples, which she said goes against her beliefs.
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