US Senate to finally vote on ‘extremely important’ same-sex marriage bill

A couple holds hands, draped in flags, as they celebrate the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.

The US Senate will vote this week on the Respect For Marriage Act, which would protect same-sex marriage – if passed. 

On Monday (14 November), Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer confirmed a first procedural vote on the bill will take place on Wednesday (16 November). 

The act has been proposed to protect same-sex and interracial marriage rights, both of which rest on historic Supreme Court rulings that many fear could be overturned.

According to the Washington Post, some senators have previously argued that the bill is unnecessary, while others have cited unjustified concerns that it would allow for polygamous marriages or infringe on relations liberties. 

The bill has since been amended to change some of the language that addressed religious-liberty concerns.

In a joint statement about the changes, senators Tammy Baldwin, Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Kyrsten Sinema, and Thom Tillis said the bill needs “broad, bipartisan support needed to pass”.

They said the latest version of the law clarifies that nonprofit religious groups won’t be required to provide facilities for marriage, and if the groups are opposed to same-sex marriage it won’t endanger their nonprofit status.

The amendment also states the law doesn’t recognise polygamous marriages.

‘Sense of security’

In the senate, which is divided 50-50, at least 10 Republican senators must back the bill for it to become law. 

Schumer said passing the “extremely important” bill would put “much-needed safeguards into federal law”, and he urged the conservative opposition to support it. 

Meanwhile, senator Rob Portman said: “It’s really important to give people a sense of security in their marriages and comfort that they won’t lose their rights as they move from state to state.”

The Respect For Marriage Act has existed in various forms since 2019, and was passed by the House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote of 267 to 157 on 19 July this year.

A total of 47 Republicans joined a full house of 220 Democrats to support the bill. 

Passing the Respect For Marriage Act has become a priority for Democrats after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade, gutting abortion rights across the country.

It follows numerous LGBTQ+ candidates securing seats in the 2022 midterm elections.