Senate approves Respect for Marriage Act
The Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, sending it back to the House for a final approval before it can be signed by the President.
This bill required bipartisan compromise. It does not fully legalize gay marriage like the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision. Instead it requires state government officials to recognize legally performed marriages from other states regardless of sex, or race.
It also repeals the Defense for Marriage act that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman and denied federal benefits for same sex couples.
Democrats prioritized the Respect for Marriage Act after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Obergefell decision should be revisited after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“We will stand up and defend the vulnerable, that we’ll protect the individual rights of all Americans from a far-right Supreme Court majority determined to turn the clock back by decades,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said during a speech in support of the bill.
Some Republicans expressed concern that it could infringe upon religious freedom. But amendments were added to make clear non-profit religious organizations do not have to help perform same sex marriages.
“Unlike Obergefell this bill expressly empowers private litigants to sue religious institutions, faith based organization and private parties who oppose, for sincerely held religious beliefs, same sex marriage,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor.
The House had already passed the bill, but because of the Senate’s amendments on religious freedom the House needs to approve the new version.