US Senate votes to move forward on marriage bill

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday November 16, 2022
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The Senate held a procedural vote Wednesday on the Respect for Marriage Act, clearing the way for a vote as early as this week. Photo: Screengrab
The Senate held a procedural vote Wednesday on the Respect for Marriage Act, clearing the way for a vote as early as this week. Photo: Screengrab

In the U.S. Senate, in a 62-37 vote Wednesday, 12 Republicans voted with all Democrats to move forward on the Respect for Marriage Act bill.

The November 16 procedural vote occurred after negotiators reached a bipartisan deal to include protections for religious liberty. The vote on passage of the bill could occur as soon as this week, Politico reported.

The House passed a same-sex marriage bill without a religious liberty component in July, with support from nearly 50 House Republicans. If the Senate passes its version, the bill will head back to the House for approval.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-California), was a co-sponsor of the legislation. He credited lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin's (D-Wisconsin) leadership on the bill, which he said is critical.

"Something as important as the fundamental freedom to marry cannot be left to the whims of an extreme, far-right Supreme Court," Padilla stated. "Today was a historic day for the advancement and preservation of basic civil rights for all Americans. By passing the Respect for Marriage Act, we are affirming to millions of LGBTQ Americans and interracial couples that they are equal under law."

President Joe Biden said he would sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

"Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love. Today's bipartisan vote brings the United States one step closer to protecting that right in law. The Respect for Marriage Act will ensure that LGBTQI+ couples and interracial couples are respected and protected equally under federal law, and provide more certainty to these families since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs," Biden stated, referring to the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. "I want to thank the Members of Congress whose leadership has sent a strong message that Republicans and Democrats can work together to secure the fundamental right of Americans to marry the person they love. I urge Congress to quickly send this bill to my desk where I will promptly sign it into law."

Reaction from LGBTQ community groups was swift.

"Today 62 U.S. senators voted for cloture on the Respect for Marriage Act, H.R. 8404, a filibuster-proof majority of the U.S. Senate agreeing to move the RMA forward to the Senate floor," stated Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task force. "The importance of this vote cannot be overstated — it is in some part proactive defensive legislation of the conservative majority of the Supreme Court's clear threats against marriage for same-sex couples."

Johnson added that the Task Force supports the RMA — a bipartisan compromise — because it would protect millions of same-sex and interracial couples by ensuring their marriages be respected by federal and state governments.

"It would remove the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act off the books and replace disrespect with respect," Johnson added. "The RMA and our families enjoy strong interfaith support, and it is worth noting that this bill would not change existing constitutional religious freedoms."

The House vote in July signaled support for ensuring marriage rights for same-sex couples amid fears basic rights are at threat in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, as the Washington Blade reported at the time.

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, also praised the Senate procedural vote.

"After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Supreme Court made clear that they cannot be relied upon to respect their own precedent or protect our civil rights - spreading fear and uncertainty within our community, disrupting our lives and the peace of our loved ones," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang. "Today's bipartisan Senate vote reflects what 70% of Americans agree with — that all loving, committed couples have the right to be respected and treated equally under federal law."

Hoang added, "With this vote, LGBTQ+ and interracial families will no longer have to live in fear or uncertainty. Equality California applauds the vote today to protect federal marriage equality across the country — one that cannot be easily overturned, regardless of political control. This is a vote and victory the LGBTQ+ community will not forget, but much more needs to be addressed for the well-being of our community. Equality California will continue fighting to protect transgender youth, advocate for life-saving gender-affirming care, and will not tolerate anti-LGBTQ+ attacks."

According to the Senate Periodicals Twitter account, the 12 Republican senators voting with the Democrats were Roy Blunt (Missouri), Richard Burr and Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Lisa Murkowski and Dan Young (Alaska), Robert Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), and Todd Young (Indiana)

This story has been updated with additional comments.

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