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Respect for Marriage Law: what is it, and why did Congress pass it now?

The House of Representatives approved the Respect of Marriage act which would codify the rights to marry of the LGBTQ+ community under federal law.

The House of Representatives approved the Respect of Marriage act which would codify the rights to marry of the LGBTQ+ community under federal law.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday, 19 July, which, if approved by the Senate, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and codify the right to marry, regardless of sexuality.

The bill was approved by the Democratic caucus, who were joined by forty-seven Republicans —just twenty-two percent of the GOP membership in the House.

While the issue of marriage equality had seemed to be a non-issue, the passage of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans bills, passed in Republican-controlled state legislatures have many worried. The threats posed by these laws grew significnatly after Clarence Thomas’ wrote that the Supreme Court should reconsider the “substantive rights” granted in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court which made marriage equality the law of the land, in his concurrence to the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. With the court showing that it is willing to reverse judicial precedent with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, some experts believe that a federal law could ensure that they are protected in future cases that come before the court.

Will the bill be brought to a vote in the Senate?

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer must schedule a vote on the bill, which he has yet to do.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked if he would vote to approve the Respect of Marriage, he said, “I’m going to wait to address that issue when it comes up in the Senate. And we’ll see when Sen. Schumer wants to move forward.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Schumer addressed the topic saying from the Senate floor that he wants to “bring this bill to the floor, and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.” Some activists and experts believe it could be advantageous to bring it to the floor even if it did not pass to get Republicans on the record.

So far, three Republicans, Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins have said they support the legislation with Thom Tillis (R-NC), saying that he “probably will” approve it when it is up for a vote. With these four votes, only five other Republicans would be needed. Sen. John Thun (R-SD) did not have such a positive reaction, compared to Sen. Tillis, but said that he wold take a look at the legislation and make a decision.

Sen. Tillis beleives that they may be able to find the votes but some Republican members have already voiced their opposition. One Senator is Marco Rubio (R-FL), who called the passage of the bill in the House “a stupid waste of time;” Sen. Bill Cassidy had similar thoughts. GOP Senators Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham have also said that they would vote NO at this time.