Landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage passes US Congress

President Joe Biden welcomed the result, calling it a "critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love".

US Congress passes Respect for Marriage Act.
Image: Twitter: @SpeakerPelosi

The US Congress has approved a landmark bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide. The legislation passed by a vote of 258-169 on Thursday, December 9, with 39 Republicans aligning in favour with Democrats in a rare display of bipartisanship.

Although the Respect for Marriage Act does not require states to introduce same-sex unions, it says they must recognise legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin”. The legislation will now be handed over to Joe Biden who has vowed to sign it into law without delay.

Welcoming the result, the US President stated: “Today, Congress took a critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love”.

He added that it would “give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples who are now guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled to”.

The bill came following the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overrule the Roe v Wade case, therefore revoking abortion rights in the country. In the wake of the event, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges decision which legalised same-sex marriage could also be reconsidered.

Democrats in particular worked to introduce protections for same-sex and interracial couples, acting before they hand over control of the Congress to Republicans in January. As one of her last acts as House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi signed the bill, calling it a “glorious triumph of love and freedom”.

In a tweet, she added that the Respect for Marriage Act “expresses a value that our nation holds dear: liberty, equality and dignity for all.”

Republican Ann Wagner said, “To me this is really just standing with the Constitution”, adding “No one’s religious liberties are affected in any way, shape or form”.

Incoming President of the Human Rights Campaign, Kelly Robison, explained that the vote shows “in such an important way” that LGBTQ+ people are valued in the US.

“We are part of the full story of what it means to be an American. It really speaks to them validating our love,” she said.

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