Burr and Tillis are among the 12 GOP ‘yes’ votes
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate cleared a key hurdle to passing a marriage equality bill Wednesday, garnering even more than the 60 senators from both political parties needed to move past a legislative filibuster.
The bill, which could win final passage in the Senate as soon as this week, would ensure same-sex and interracial couples continue having their marriages recognized regardless of future Supreme Court rulings. The U.S. House passed the measure earlier this year, but will need to vote once more after the Senate changed the bill to include a so-called religious liberty amendment.
The 62-37 Senate procedural vote Wednesday drew the backing of 12 Republicans, including retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, retiring North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Maine’s Susan Collins, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Wyoming’s Cynthia Lummis, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Utah’s Mitt Romney, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Indiana’s Todd Young.
Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said during floor debate that millions of Americans are concerned the Supreme Court could overturn the cases that guaranteed the right to same-sex or interracial marriages, similarly to how it ended the constitutional right to abortion this summer.
“Let’s face it, regardless of your position on the issue of abortion, the highest court of the land has just overturned a precedent of nearly 50 years. There’s no questioning that,” Baldwin said. “And the same legal arguments the Supreme Court rested on to reverse Roe v. Wade could just as easily be applied to reverse numerous other cases related to families, related to intimate relations, to contraception and marriage.”
Baldwin said some of her colleagues have questioned why Congress needs to pass the marriage equality bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, now, given that “there’s no case currently making its way up to the United States Supreme Court challenging these rights.”
“Others have suggested that proponents of the Respect for Marriage Act are raising attention just to drive further divisions among Americans,” Baldwin said, rejecting the notion.
“I believe there is an urgency to pass the Respect for Marriage Act in order to heal such divisions and provide certainty to married interracial and same-sex couples that the protections, rights and responsibilities that flow from their marriages will endure,” Baldwin added.
Maine’s Collins said the bill “would help promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the rights of Americans in same-sex and interracial marriages.”
The measure, Collins said, would maintain and strengthen “important religious liberty and conscious protections” as well.
“Let us remember that we are talking about our family members, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors,” Collins said. “I’m proud to have stood with them and I will continue to stand with them in efforts to protect and secure their rights, while at the same time steadfastly protecting and respecting religious liberty.”
Ernst said following the vote that it took her “a lot of time” and a lot of conversations before deciding how she’d vote.
“Iowa was the fourth state where same-sex marriage was allowed, and so we’re maintaining the status quo,” Ernst said.
The Biden administration publicly backed the bill Wednesday as the vote was ongoing, releasing a statement of administration policy, saying “the right to marriage confers vital legal protections, dignity, and full participation in our society.”
“No person should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love, and every married couple in the United States deserves the security of knowing that their marriage will be defended and respected,” it said. Read more