Bill Protects Same-Sex Marriage 12/08 06:15
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House is set to give final approval Thursday to
legislation protecting same-sex marriages in federal law, a monumental step in
a decadeslong battle for nationwide recognition of such unions that reflects a
stunning turnaround in societal attitudes.
A law requiring all states to recognize same-sex marriages would come as a a
relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme
Court's 2015 decision that legalized those marriages nationwide. The bipartisan
legislation would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to
recognize legal marriages regardless of "sex, race, ethnicity, or national
President Joe Biden backs the bill and said he will "promptly and proudly"
sign it into law.
Democrats have moved the bill quickly through the House and Senate since the
Supreme Court's June decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion.
That ruling included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that
suggested same-sex marriage should also be reconsidered.
Roused to action by the court, the House passed a bill to protect the
same-sex unions in July with the support of 47 Republicans, a robust and
unexpected show of support that kick-started serious negotiations in the
Senate. After months of talks, the Senate passed the legislation last week with
12 Republican votes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she is happy that the
marriage legislation will be one of her last acts in leadership before stepping
aside in January. "I'm so excited," she said of the legislation, which she said
will ensure that "the federal government will never again stand in the way of
marrying the person you love."
The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry,
as the Obergefell ruling now does. But it would require states to recognize all
marriages that were legal where they were performed and it would protect
current same-sex unions if the court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision were
to be overturned.
While it's not everything advocates may have wanted, passage of the
legislation represents a watershed moment. Just a decade ago, many Republicans
openly campaigned on blocking same-sex marriages; today more than two-thirds of
the public support them.
Democrats in the Senate, led by Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin and Arizona's
Kyrsten Sinema, slowly won over key Republican votes by negotiating an
amendment that would clarify that the legislation does not affect the rights of
private individuals or businesses that are already enshrined in current law.
The amended bill would also make clear that a marriage is between two people,
an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation could
In the end, several religious groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, came out in support of the bill. The Mormon church said
it would support rights for same-sex couples as long as they didn't infringe
upon religious groups' right to believe as they choose.
Still, most Republicans opposed the legislation and some conservative
advocacy groups lobbied aggressively against it in recent weeks, arguing that
it doesn't do enough to protect those who want to refuse services for same-sex
"Marriage is the exclusive, lifelong, conjugal union between one man and one
woman, and any departure from that design hurts the indispensable goal of
having every child raised in a stable home by the mom and dad who conceived
him," the Heritage Foundation's Roger Severino, vice president of domestic
policy, wrote in a recent blog post arguing against the bill.
In Congress, as public sentiment has shifted, Republicans have largely shied
away from making that argument. On the House floor Wednesday night, a handful
of Republicans voiced opposition over the legislation for process reasons --
saying that it hadn't gotten a full hearing in the House -- or by arguing that
the religious liberty provisions added by the Senate weren't enough.
The bill's supporters will be watching to see whether the 47 Republicans who
previously backed the legislation will stick with it, and whether they could
gain more votes especially now that it includes the additional religious
liberty provisions negotiated by Senate Republicans. Heritage and other groups
have been pushing Republicans who support the bill to switch their position.
The almost four dozen Republicans who supported the bill this summer
represented a wide range of the GOP caucus -- from more moderate members to
Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the chair of the conservative hard-right House
Freedom Caucus, and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican.
All four Republican members of Utah's congressional delegation also supported
the legislation. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy voted against the
The votes come as the LGBTQ community has faced violent attacks, such as the
shooting earlier this month at a gay nightclub in Colorado that killed five
people and injured at least 17.
"We have been through a lot," said Kelley Robinson, the incoming president
of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. But Robinson says the votes show
"in such an important way" that the country values LBGTQ people.
"We are part of the full story of what it means to be an American," said
Robinson, who was inside the Senate chamber for last week's vote with her wife
and young son. "It really speaks to them validating our love."
The vote was personal for many senators, too. The day the bill passed their
chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was wearing the tie he wore at
his daughter's wedding to another woman. He recalled that day as "one of the
happiest moments of my life."
Baldwin, the first openly gay senator who has been working on gay rights
issues for almost four decades, tearfully hugged Schumer as the final vote was
underway. She tweeted thanks to the same-sex and interracial couples who she
said made the moment possible.
"By living as your true selves, you changed the hearts and minds of people
around you," she wrote.