Senate gives final passage to Respect for Marriage Act

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Tuesday November 29, 2022
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The U.S. Senate gave final passage to the marriage bill November 29. Photo: Public domain
The U.S. Senate gave final passage to the marriage bill November 29. Photo: Public domain

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday gave final passage to the Respect for Marriage Act, sending the bill back to the House of Representatives for a vote before it goes to President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it. It will enshrine in federal law a right to same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.

The 61-36 vote included all 49 Democratic senators present and 12 Republicans. The lone Democratic senator absent was Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), who is a co-sponsor but was in his home state where he faces a runoff next week against Republican Herschel Walker, according to Equality California, the state's LGBTQ rights organization.

The Senate bill contains an amendment to include protections for religious liberty.

The House previously passed the bill without the amendment back in July on a bipartisan 267-157 vote. House members now need to have a concurrence vote before the bill can be sent to Biden.

Specifically, the Respect for Marriage Act will repeal the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" that was passed in 1996 but had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges). Not only does it require federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide but also mandates states must recognize such unions performed in other states.

LGBTQ leaders praised the Senate action.

"This vote is an affirmation that the United States will stand up and protect the freedom for all Americans to marry the person they love," stated Tony Hoang, EQCA executive director. "And it's a reflection of the fact that for the overwhelming majority of Americans — across political parties, backgrounds and in every corner of the country — the debate over marriage equality is settled.

Biden indicated his strong support in a statement.

"With today's bipartisan Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, the United States is on the brink of reaffirming a fundamental truth: love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love," the president stated. "For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled. It will also ensure that, for generations to follow, LGBTQI+ youth will grow up knowing that they, too, can lead full, happy lives and build families of their own.

"Importantly, the Senate's passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is a bipartisan achievement. ... I look forward to welcoming them at the White House after the House passes this legislation and sends it to my desk, where I will promptly and proudly sign it into law," he added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) underscored the importance of the bill.

"Since the Supreme Court's monstrous decision overturning Roe v. Wade, extreme MAGA Republicans have set their sights on additional personal freedoms," Pelosi stated. "In his concurring opinion, [Justice] Clarence Thomas explicitly called on the court to reconsider the right to marriage equality handed down in its Obergefell decision. Once signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will prevent right-wing extremists from uprooting legal precedent, tearing away fundamental freedoms and upending the lives of families across the country."

Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) also hailed the vote.

"Today, the Senate took a bold step to affirm the lives of millions of LGBTQ people and interracial couples across our country," he stated. "By passing the Respect for Marriage Act, we sent a clear message to all LGBTQ Americans that we see them and recognize that they are worthy of equal treatment under law regardless of who they are, who they love, and who they choose to marry."

A statement from San Francisco Pride was more muted.

"Today the Respect for Marriage Act was approved 61-36, with unanimous support from Democrats," SF Pride board President Nguyen Pham stated. "While passage of this bill is encouraging, the legislation is not nearly as inclusive as it could be. When the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, they made a decision that simultaneously rescinded hard-won reproductive rights and threatened the legality of same-sex and interracial marriage. It is clear that many of our representatives are listening and making every effort to protect our rights as LGBTQ+ people.

"While we applaud this bill and the positive step toward greater equality in our country, there is still so much work yet to be done," he added. "We look forward to a time when our government can come to greater consensus on a more comprehensive bill that offers fewer concessions to the religious right and more broadly shields our community, including transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, from discrimination."

Updated, 11/30/22: This story has been updated with additional comments.

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