What is the Respect For Marriage act passed by the Senate?
The Democrats are rushing to pass legislation before they lose control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January.
Legislation to protect the right to same-sex and interracial marriages looks set to be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk after 12 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats to advance the Respect For Marriage act through the Senate.
The Democrats took the decision to codify marriage protections after the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections in the Summer. In their ruling there was a hint that other rights and protections could lose their federal protection and decisions returned to the states.
The Supreme Court established protections for same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v Hodges ruling in 2015. This ruling extended legal rights and benefits to all marriages, regardless of the sexuality of those involved. The Respect for Marriage act seeks to reinforce this, though critics of the bill argue the bill does not have enough protection should the Supreme Court become more right-wing.
The Respect For Marriage act does not actually codify the Obergefell v Hodges ruling. Instead, it would require states to recognise all marriages that were legal when performed, including in other states, regardless of sexuality or race. This means that should the Supreme Court strike down federal same-sex marraige protection then future marriages would not be protected by this act, potentially rendering it pointless.
“I don’t like it, but I’ll take it,” Mr Obergefell, the plaintiff in the 2015 ruling, told the BBC, adding he was “not all that pleased” with the bill.
The legislation will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that said the federal government would not recognize any same-sex marriages performed by states, effectively denying same-sex couples federal benefits. However, after the 2015 Obergefell ruling this law was unenforceable anyway.
When the bill came to the Senate it needed 60 votes to overcome the filibuster. Fortunately for the Democrats, 12 Republicans voted with them to give a winning margin of 61-36. The bill will now head to the House of Representatives where it is expected to pass thanks to the Democrat majority.