US Senate passes bill protecting same-sex marriage | Same-sex marriage (US)

The US Senate has passed the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to protect same-sex unions that Democrats are hurrying to get to Joe Biden to be signed into law before Republicans take over the House next year.The House must now pass the bill, a step that the majority leader, Steny Hoyer, said on Tuesday could come as soon as Tuesday 6 December. Nearly 50 House Republicans supported the measure earlier this year. In the Senate, support from 12 Republicans was enough to override the filibuster and advance the bill to Tuesday’s majority vote.Although the act would not codify the 2015 supreme court decision which made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, it would require states to recognise all marriages that were legal when performed. Interracial marriages would also be protected, with states required to recognise legal marriage regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin”.Same-sex marriage has been thought under threat since June, when the conservative-dominated supreme court struck down the right to abortion. Then, the hardline justice Clarence Thomas wrote that other privacy-based rights, including same-sex marriage, could be reconsidered next.Public support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of around 70% but according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, if the supreme court did overturn the right, at least 29 states would be able to enforce bans.In a statement on Tuesday, James Esseks, director of the LGBTQ & HIV Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, 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 health care 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.”In his opinion in the abortion case, Thomas did not mention interracial marriage. The justice, who is Black, is married to the conservative activist Ginni Thomas, who is white.The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is white. His wife, the former transportation secretary Elaine Chao, is Asian American. McConnell has voted against the Respect for Marriage act.On Monday, before a test vote, the Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said: “The rights of all married couples will never truly be safe without the proper protections under federal law, and that’s why the Respect for Marriage Act is necessary.”Schumer also praised Republicans who have backed the measure, saying: “A decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples.”Republicans have argued for amendments they say have won the support of religious groups that nonetheless oppose same-sex marriage, among them the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.“They see this as a step forward for religious freedom,” Thom Tillis of South Carolina told the Associated Press.Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a Democrat and the first openly gay senator, told the AP the way some Republicans have come round on the issue reminded her “of the arc of the LBGTQ+ movement to begin with, in the early days when people weren’t out and people knew gay people by myths and stereotypes”.With such growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights, Baldwin said, “slowly laws have followed. It is history.”Associated Press contributed reporting