Same-Sex Marriage Bill Wins Sen Passage11/30 06:28
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate passed bipartisan legislation Tuesday to
protect same-sex marriages, an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics
on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex
couples who have married since the Supreme Court's 2015 decision that legalized
gay marriage nationwide.
The bill, which would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are
enshrined in federal law, was approved 61-36 on Tuesday, including support from
12 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation was
"a long time coming" and part of America's "difficult but inexorable march
towards greater equality."
Democrats are moving quickly, while the party still holds the majority in
both chambers of Congress. The legislation now moves to the House for a final
President Joe Biden praised the bipartisan vote and said he will sign the
bill "promptly and proudly" if it is passed by the House. He said it will
ensure that LGBTQ youth "will grow up knowing that they, too, can lead full,
happy lives and build families of their own."
The bill has gained steady momentum since the Supreme Court's June decision
that overturned the federal right to an abortion, a ruling that included a
concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex
marriage could also come under threat. Bipartisan Senate negotiations got a
kick-start this summer when 47 Republicans unexpectedly voted for a House bill
and gave supporters new optimism.
The legislation would not force any state to allow same-sex couples to
marry. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal
where they were performed, and protect current same-sex unions, if the court's
2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision were to be overturned. It's a stunning
bipartisan endorsement, and evidence of societal change, after years of bitter
divisiveness on the issue.
A new law protecting same-sex marriages would also be a major victory for
Democrats as they relinquish their two years of consolidated power in
Washington, and a massive win for advocates who have been pushing for decades
for federal legislation. It comes as the LGBTQ community has faced violent
attacks, such as the shooting last weekend at a gay nightclub in Colorado that
killed five people and injured at least 17.
"Our community really needs a win, we have been through a lot," said Kelley
Robinson, the incoming president of Human Rights Campaign, which advocates on
LGBTQ issues. "As a queer person who is married, I feel a sense of relief right
now. I know my family is safe."
Robinson was in the Senate chamber for the vote with her wife, Becky, and
toddler son. "It was more emotional than I expected," she said.
The vote was personal for many senators, too. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin,
a Democrat who is the first openly gay senator and was the lead sponsor of the
bill, tearfully hugged Schumer and others as the final vote was called.
Baldwin, who has been working on gay rights issues for almost four decades,
tweeted thanks to the same-sex and interracial couples who she said made the
"By living as your true selves, you changed the hearts and minds of people
around you," she wrote.
Schumer said on Tuesday that he was wearing the tie he wore at his
daughter's wedding, "one of the happiest moments of my life." He also recalled
the "harrowing conversation" he had with his daughter and her wife in September
2020 when they heard that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away.
"Could our right to marry be undone?" they asked at the time.
With conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ginsburg, the court
has now overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal right to an abortion, stoking
fears about Obergefell and other rights protected by the court. But sentiment
has shifted on same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds of the public now
Still, Schumer said it was notable that the Senate was even having the
debate after years of Republican opposition. "A decade ago, it would have
strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about
protecting the rights of same-sex married couples," he said.
Passage came after the Senate rejected three Republican amendments to
protect the rights of religious institutions and others to still oppose such
marriages. Supporters of the legislation argued those amendments were
unnecessary because the bill had already been amended to clarify that it does
not affect rights of private individuals or businesses that are currently
enshrined in law. The bill would also make clear that a marriage is between two
people, an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation
could endorse polygamy.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has been lobbying his
fellow GOP senators to support the legislation for months, pointed to the
number of religious groups supporting the bill, including The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of those groups were part of negotiations on
the bipartisan amendment.
"They see this as a step forward for religious freedom," Tillis says.
The nearly 17-million member, Utah-based faith said in a statement this
month that church doctrine would continue to consider same-sex relationships to
be against God's commandments.
Most Republicans still oppose the legislation, saying it is unnecessary and
citing concerns about religious liberty. And some conservative groups stepped
up opposition in recent weeks, lobbying Republican supporters to switch their
"Marriage is the exclusive, lifelong, conjugal union between one man and one
woman, and any departure from that design hurts the indispensable goal of
having every child raised in a stable home by the mom and dad who conceived
him," the Heritage Foundation's Roger Severino, vice president of domestic
policy, wrote in a recent blog post arguing against the bill.
In an effort to win the 10 Republican votes necessary to overcome a
filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, Democrats delayed consideration until after the
midterm elections, hoping that would relieve political pressure on GOP senators
who might be wavering.
Eventual support from 12 Republicans gave Democrats the votes they needed.
Along with Tillis, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman
supported the bill early on and have lobbied their GOP colleagues to support
it. Also voting for the legislation were Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North
Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mitt
Romney of Utah, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Cynthia Lummis of
Wyoming and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
Just before passage, Collins thanked her fellow Republicans who supported
it. "I know it has not been easy, but they have done the right thing," Collins
Lummis, one of the more conservative members of the Senate, spoke ahead of
the final vote about her "fairly brutal self soul searching" before supporting
the bill. She said that she accepts her church's beliefs that a marriage is
between a man and a woman, but noted that the country was founded on the
separation of church and state.
"We do well by taking this step, not embracing or validating each other's
devoutly held views, but by the simple act of tolerating them," Lummis said.
Baldwin said earlier this month that the newfound openness from many
Republicans on the subject reminds her "of the arc of the LBGTQ movement to
begin with, in the early days when people weren't out and people knew gay
people by myths and stereotypes."
"And slowly laws have followed," she said. "It is history."