Senate passes bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage

Pictured is a pride flag. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tori Miller | News Editor

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriage, in a landmark bipartisan vote. The 61-to-36 vote sends the legislation back to the House for final approval before sending it to President Joseph Biden. 

The bill’s implementation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. It would also prohibit states from denying the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race or ethnicity. 

“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 Tuesday evening after Senate passage, hailing it as a “bipartisan achievement.”

Even with common ground reached between both sides, some Republican backers still insist on reinforcing exceptions to the rules. The bill does not require religious organizations to provide any goods or services for the celebration of any marriage, and could not lose tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex unions, according to the New York Times. 

In the event that the Supreme Court might overturn its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision — the court case that legalized same sex marriage — it would not set a national requirement for all states to legalize same-sex marriage. However, individual states would be required to recognize another state’s legal marriage. 

Passing this legislation in the Senate has represented a significant shift in American politics and culture for Democrats and Republicans alike. Same-sex marriage, once considered a divisive political issues has now become more accepted by members of both parties in the Senate and the House. 

“Because of our work together, the rights of tens of millions of Americans will be strengthened under federal law,” Senate Majoirity Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “That’s an accomplishment we should all be proud of.”

In the Senate, the legislation brought together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, including some deeply conservative and Libertarian-leaning ones.

“For the sake of our nation today and its survival, we do well by taking this step,” said Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who delivered an emotional speech about the need for more tolerance during what she called “turbulent times for our nation.”

Overall, more than 70% of Republican senators voted against the bill, according to the New York Times. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was among those in opposition, despite hopes from Democrats and Republicans who supported it that he might vote “yes” on final passage.

While many Republicans were in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, many still hold opposing feelings and were not persuaded to change their vote. 

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) dismissed the bill. He responded saying that it’s a “fantasy” and an “imagine threat” that the right to same-sex marriage would be overturned by the Supreme Court. 

“It is and will remain legal nationwide regardless of the outcome of this legislation before us,” Lee said. “On the other hand, we have current, real, sustained, ongoing assaults on religious freedom.”

In a statement, the president said the vote reaffirmed “a fundamental truth: Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.”

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