The US Senate has passed the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’, in what campaigners call a “historic move forward” for gay marriage the rights of LGBTQ families.
The landmark bipartisan bill aims to protect same-sex and interracial marriage if those constitutional rights were ever struck down by the Supreme Court.
The vote that took place on Tuesday (29 November) had a tally of 61 to 36, with 12 Republicans voting in favour. The bill will now go back to the US House of Representatives before going to President Biden for approval.
The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ repeals the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’, a 1996 law defining marriage as only existing between a man and a woman which was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.
The freshly signed Senate Bill will support gay marriage rights in federal law further solidifying nationwide protections under the prior Supreme Court ruling.
Additionally, the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ will require states to recognise valid same-sex marriages that took place in other states as well as ensuring federal benefits are also accessible to married same-sex couples.
However, the bill does not set a national requirement that all states must legalise gay marriage.
Vice President Kamala Harris shared on Twitter the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ stands for “a simple principle: all Americans are equal and their government should treat them that way.”
On the passing of the bill, she says “we are one step closer to achieving that ideal with pride.”
This bill has been heavily supported in the wake of the US Supreme Court overturning abortion rights in the United States in June with Justice Clarence Thomas then giving his opinion that rulings over gay marriage and same-sex relationships should be “reconsidered.”
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer hailed the decision as an advancement forward in the “long but inexorable march towards greater equality,” the BBC reported.
“By passing this bill, the Senate is sending a message that every American needs to hear: no matter who you are or who you love, you too deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law,” Senate Schumer added.
The first openly gay senator and the lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, said the legislation will “protect hard-fought progress” for marriage equality in the US.
The nonprofit organisation American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement on the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ that celebrated the progress but remained wary about the future of LGBTQ Americans.
“We welcome this historic vote to protect the rights of LGBTQ people and our families, but the fight isn’t over,” ACLU tweeted in the wake of the news.
“Members of Congress must work to protect the lives and existence of ALL LGBTQ people, including trans people,” they also noted.
The statement added that transgender people have had their “safety, dignity, and health care threatened by lawmakers across the country, including by members of this Congress.”
The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ comes only a couple of weeks after the mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, signed “the most comprehensive trans and abortion refugee bill in the USA,” according to supporters.
The Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act of 2022 was signed on 21 November and protects the right to bodily autonomy of those seeking care for abortion, contraception, sexual conduct, intimate relationships, and gender affirmation.