House set to vote on landmark marriage equality bill

  • In Politics
  • 2022-12-08 13:33:33Z
  • By CBS News

Washington - The House is poised to approve legislation Thursday that provides federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, a move that would send the landmark bill to President Biden's desk for his signature.

Called the Respect for Marriage Act, the measure is expected to win bipartisan support in the Democratic-led House, as the lower chamber passed this summer a version of the bill with backing from 47 Republicans.

The measure is likely to be one of the last significant legislative accomplishments from the Democratic House before the party turns over control of the lower chamber to Republicans with the start of the new Congress in January.

The House vote comes a week after the Senate cleared the legislation in a 61 to 36 vote that included support from 12 Republicans. The plan won broader backing from GOP senators after the initial House-passed bill was revised to include an amendment providing religious liberty protections.

The Respect for Marriage Act was among the first legislative steps taken by the House in the wake of the Supreme Court's June decision rolling back the constitutional right to an abortion. Concerned by a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that urged the court to reconsider other landmark cases, including the 2015 decision recognizing the right to same-sex marriage, Democrats moved swiftly to enshrine marriage equality into federal law.

The bill repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples, and safeguards marriages by requiring that valid marriages are recognized regardless of "sex, race, ethnicity or national origin."

After Senate Republicans expressed concerns the initial plan would infringe on religious freedom, a bipartisan group in the Senate brokered a deal on changes to the bill ensuring nonprofit religious groups will not be required to provide services, facilities or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage, and protecting religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution and federal law.

The agreement on the revised legislation was crucial as it produced the Republican support needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, clearing the way for the legislation's final passage.

The expected passage of the bill - particularly with bipartisan majorities - would be a watershed for the LGBTQ rights movement and demonstrates the shifting views by the American public on same-sex marriage. A June 2021 Gallup poll found that support for gay marriage reached a record high.

But it also demonstrated the rising concerns among Democrats that other rights guaranteed by past Supreme Court decisions could be under threat by the high court's expanded conservative majority. In addition to passing the marriage equality bill, the House also passed legislation aimed at restoring abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and protecting access to birth control. Neither of those bills, however, would clear the 50-50 Senate.

While momentum initially built behind the marriage equality plan after it was introduced in July, movement through the Senate was put on hold until after the November midterm elections at the request of Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and the bipartisan group of senators involved in talks over the plan.

The Senate, however, then moved to advance the bill swiftly after the deal on religious liberty protections was passed.

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