Same-Sex Marriage Rights Pass In Senate 61-36

(screen capture via PBS News Hour)

By a vote of 61-36, the U.S. Senate approved the Respect for Marriage Act today which will enshrine marriage equality rights into federal law. The legislation will require that people be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed.

The legislation also officially repeals the heinous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed in 1996. DOMA defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. DOMA has remained on the books even though it was declared unconstitutional by the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergerfell v Hodges.

Today’s vote reflects the support Americans have for marriage equality which reached a new high of 71% in Gallup tracking polls in June. In 1996, when Gallup first began to poll on the issue, the issue received just 27% support.

The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives where it could be approved as early as next week. The House passed the original version of the legislation this past July in a large, bipartisan vote of 267-157, making it the most pro-LGBTQ vote in Congressional history. Forty-seven House Republicans joined the Democrats in approving the legislation.

Another House vote is required as a bipartisan group of senators — which included Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) — hammered out an amendment to the bill to calm some Republicans’ concerns about religious liberty and get the bill the required 60 votes in the Senate.

Among other things, the approved amendment plainly states that the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages. The new language also clarifies that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

Democrats began to move on codifying same-sex marriage rights into law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June, which guaranteed the right to an abortion for almost 50 years.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas urged the high court in his concurrence to re-examine the court’s previous “substantive review” rulings including the right to buy and use contraception without government restriction (Griswold v. Connecticut), same-sex relationships (Lawrence v. Texas), and marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges).

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote. “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’ … we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

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