US Senate to vote on Respect for Marriage Act

This Thursday, the U.S. Senate ended debate on the Respect for Marriage act, a bill that would federally protect same-sex and interracial marriage. The bill still needs to pass an official Senate vote and proceeding to vote. 12 Republican senators, including Mitt Romney (R-UT), voted in favor, putting the bill comfortably within the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster.

The bill would require all states to recognize the marriage licenses issued by other states, as well as repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage to be exclusively between two members of the opposite sex. The bill would not legalize same-sex marriage at the federal level.

The bill has support from some unlikely allies, including the Church of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). While the Church still considers same-sex marriage to be against God's commandments, they support the bill because they believe it sufficiently maintains religious freedom.

Same-sex marriage is now supported by 70 percent of Americans, significantly higher from the mere 40 percent in 2008. Support for same-sex marriage has been one of the most rapid changes in national sentiment for a civil rights issue.

The bill passed the House in July with a 267-157 vote, receiving support from 47 Republicans. If the Senate approves the bill, it will return to the House (amendments have been added to the bill), after which it will go to President Biden.

A vote of cloture on the bill was postponed until after the midterms to mitigate worry by some Republican members of Congress. The amendments added to the bill address concerns that the bill would endanger religious freedom by including provisions that require nonprofit religious institutions to recognize same-sex marriages.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, lawmakers have felt urgency to codify same-sex and interracial marriage. In his concurring Opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that "we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell." These cases protect the right to contraception access, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage, respectively. Should these cases be overturned, it would eliminate the only federal protections that exist for these rights.