Senate Votes 61-36 In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage Rights

By a vote of 61-36, the U.S. Senate approved the Respect for Marriage Act today which will enshrine same-sex marriage rights into federal law.
(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 same-sex marriage rights into federal law, granting protections to same-sex and interracial couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act 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.

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.”

It goes without saying that passing major LGBTQ rights legislation just as Republicans are about to regain control of the House is a major big win for Democrats.