House Passes Bill Aimed at Protecting Same-Sex Marriage

House Passes Bill Aimed at Protecting Same-Sex Marriage

Coming on the heels of the recent arrests of 17 representatives at an abortion rights protest, Congress is working to prevent any further damage done by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, looking to ensure that same-sex marriage is protected under law.

A promising step towards ensuring that marriage equality is enshrined in law, the House has passed the Respect for Marriage Act with heavy bipartisan support. The bill, if passed by the Senate, would help codify the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that requires states recognize same sex marriages and afford them the same legal privileges and protections, and would effectively repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage act that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. “This bill makes crystal clear that every couple and their children has the fundamental freedom to take pride in their marriage and have their marriage respected under the law,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi remarked ahead of Tuesday's vote.

The urgency by Democrats to get the legislation passed comes following the Supreme Court's recent overturning of Roe v. Wade with Justice Clarence Thomas putting out a statement that seemed to suggest that other rights, including gay marriage, could be on the chopping block next. House Democrats managed to get 47 Republicans to join them in voting for the bill, marking a significant shift in attitudes from even a decade ago. As South Carolina Representative Nancy Mace eloquently put it, “If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them. Trust me, I've tried it more than once 😂”

The bill now faces its biggest challenge as it heads into Senate limbo. Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin have supported the bill, but have declined to definitively commit on whether or not they would commit to a vote. Senate Democrats would have to get at least 10 Republican Senators to support the bill in order to get it past the 60 vote filibuster-proof threshold, but so far only Sen. Susan Collins has voiced her support.

What might work in Democrats' favor is that public attitudes towards gay marriage have steadily improved in the years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling. According to a recent Gallup poll, 71% of Americans are in favor of gay marriage and as a result Republicans have started to shy away, at least publicly, from their opposition. Instead, falling back on their culture wars-based fear-mongering tactics, Republican senators have questioned whether the issue needs to be brought up for a vote, with Sen. Bill Cassidy telling ABC News, "It’s obviously settled law right now. This is a pure messaging bill by a party that has failed on substantive issues — be it inflation, crime or the [southern] border and now are looking for cultural issues in order to somehow do better in November.”

Photo via Getty/ SAUL LOEB/ AFP