US Senate passes landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage

US President Joe Biden looks forward to signing the legislation which ensures protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.

Crowd of people carrying LGBTQ+ Pride flags celebrate as US Senate passes same-sex marriage legislation.
Image: Twitter @JMcKMelbourne

The US Senate voted 61-36 on Tuesday, November 29, to pass the Respect for Marriage Act which protects same-sex marriages. This bill repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that banned same-sex marriage in 1996, and ensures the same protections for interracial marriages.

Same-sex marriage came under threat in June 2022 when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade to effectively remove abortion rights. After that decision, conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stated that the court should reconsider other protections including Obergefell v Hodges which protects same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry by requiring all US states to grant and recognise same-sex marriages.

Before Obergell v Hodges was in effect, 35 states had same-sex marriage bans. These states technically retain those bans, but they have not been able to enforce them since marriage equality was passed in 2015 by a Supreme Court decision.

While 36 Republican senators voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, support from 12 Republicans was enough to advance the bill to Tuesday’s majority vote.

The new legislation ensures that no federal ban can invalidate hundreds of thousands of same-sex marriages that have been legally carried out to date. Even if the Supreme Court overturns the 2015 equal marriage rights ruling in the future, under this new legislation, each state will be required to recognise all marriages that were legal when performed regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin”.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter to share his joy after the vote:

LGBTQ+ rights organisations are praising the result, while acknowledging that the fight for LGBTQ+ equality is far from over as Republicans continue to propose anti-trans and Don’t Say Gay bills across the country.

James Esseks, director of the LGBTQ & HIV Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out that more work is needed. He said: “For the last seven years, LGBTQ+ families across the country have been able to build their lives around their right to marriage equality. The Respect for Marriage Act will go a long way to ensure an increasingly radical supreme court does not threaten this right, but LGBTQ+ rights are already under attack nationwide.

“Transgender people especially have had their safety, dignity, and healthcare threatened by lawmakers across the country, including by members of this Congress. While we welcome the historic vote on this measure, members of Congress must also fight like trans lives depend on their efforts because trans lives do.”

Following its approval from the Senate, the bill protecting same-sex marriage will now be voted on by the House, which could happen as early as next week. It will then go to US President Joe Biden for his signature. Biden shared his appreciation for this bipartisan achievement, and said he looks forward to proudly signing the legislation into law when it reaches his desk.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.

During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.

GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.