UNITED STATES: Legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages overcomes a crucial Senate hurdle on Wednesday, which was raised by concerns that a more conservative Supreme Court may reverse a 2015 decision that made them legal worldwide.
The bill garnered the 60 votes required to restrict debate on the bill—which would act as a legal safeguard against any future Supreme Court decisions by requiring the federal government to recognise any marriage that is legal in the state in which it was performed—before a final vote on its passage.
In the Senate’s 100-member body, the bill was passed with the support of all 50 Democrats and 12 Republicans. 47 Republicans and every Democrat in the House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill quite identical to this one in July.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are about 568,000 married same-sex couples in the country.
Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person elected to the Senate and the bill’s chief negotiator, said at a news conference on Tuesday, “I’ve heard from constituents back home who are concerned and worried about the suggestion that their right to marry who they love will be taken away.”
The results of the election were welcomed by US President Joe Biden, who expressed gratitude to Congress for “sending a strong message that Republicans and Democrats can work together to safeguard the fundamental right of Americans to marry the person they love.”
Additionally, Biden asked US lawmakers to pass the legislation and send it to his desk; the bill has to go through several more Senate procedural hurdles before returning to the House for final approval and going to the president for signature.
Under the bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, states would be free to outlaw same-sex interracial marriages if the Supreme Court granted them the right to do so.
Advocates for LGBTQ rights have grown concerned that the US Supreme Court, which in June invalidated the right to an abortion in a landmark decision reversing Roe v. Wade, may also decide to overturn a 2015 ruling that legalised homosexual marriage in the US.
Even though same-sex marriage has transformed over the past 10 years from a divisive political issue to a widely accepted norm, the bill’s negotiators had to balance protecting a right that most Americans now take for granted with assuaging Republican senators’ concerns about religious freedom.
The Mormon Church, which had previously violently opposed same-sex marriage, has come out in support of the legislation, demonstrating how far the nation has come on the issue. Mitt Romney, a Mormon Republican senator, voted in favour on Wednesday.
The legislation is the outcome of months of negotiations between Republican Senators Susan Collins and Rob Portman, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and Senators Thom Tillis and Tammy Baldwin.
Even when a large majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, as shown by polls, there is still debate over it. On Wednesday, 37 Republicans abstained, while the religious right continues to largely oppose such marriages.
Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Republicans and a powerful figure in his caucus, voted against the bill.