Senate Passes Bill Protecting Same-Sex and Interracial Marriage

On November 29, the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which will protect same-sex and interracial marriage, in a landmark bipartisan vote.

The bill received support from all members of the Democratic caucus as well as from 12 Republicans. The final vote was 61-36.

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The House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill before the end of the year, at which point it will be sent to President Biden to be signed into law.

“For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled,” Biden said in a statement the evening after the bill passed the Senate. The President hailed the new act as a “bipartisan achievement.”

While the bill will require states to recognize legal marriages that took place in other states, it will not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same-sex marriage. That decision will still be left up to the individual states.

Thus, if the Supreme Court were to overturn its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, a state could pass a law banning same-sex marriages within its borders. Nevertheless, it would still be required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cited five senators — Republicans Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — for their “outstanding and relentless work” on the bill during a floor speech the morning of the vote.

“For millions and millions of Americans, today is a very good day,” Schumer said. “An important day. A day that’s been a long time coming.”

The fact that the bill found support from GOP senators, even from those in deeply red states like Wyoming and Utah, is an indication of just how much support for same-sex marriage has grown in recent years.

Earlier in November, Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming told CNN’s Manu Raju that she voted to pass the Senate’s same-sex marriage bill due to “Article 1, Section 3 of the Wyoming Constitution,” which includes an anti-discrimination clause.

“That’s why we’re called the equality state,” Lummis added.

Meanwhile, Utah’s Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, said the “bill made sense” and “provides important religious liberty protections.”

“While I believe in traditional marriage, Obergefell is and has been the law of the land upon which LGBTQ individuals have relied,” Romney said. “This legislation provides certainty to many LGBTQ Americans, and it signals that Congress, and I, esteem and love all of our fellow Americans equally.”