Thu | Feb 2, 2023

Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions clears Congress

Published:Friday | December 9, 2022 | 1:04 AM
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (left) of New York, and other members of congress, displays after signing the H.R. 8404, the Respect For Marriage Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington yesterday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (left) of New York, and other members of congress, displays after signing the H.R. 8404, the Respect For Marriage Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington yesterday.

WASHINGTON (AP):

The House gave final approval Thursday to legislation protecting same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decadeslong battle for nationwide recognition that reflects a stark turnaround in societal attitudes.

President Joe Biden has said he will promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognise same-sex marriages. It is a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalised those marriages and have worried about what would happen if the ruling were overturned.

In a statement after the vote, Biden called the legislation a “critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love”. He said the legislation provides “hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognise and respect the families they build”.

The bipartisan legislation, which passed 258-169 with 39 Republican votes, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognise legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin”. After months of negotiations, the Senate passed the bill last week with 12 Republican votes.

Democrats moved the bill quickly through the House and Senate after the Supreme Court’s decision in June that overturned the federal right to an abortion – including a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges decision legalising same-sex marriage could also be reconsidered.

While many Republicans predicted that was unlikely to happen, and said the bill was unnecessary, Democrats and GOP supporters of the bill said it shouldn’t be left to chance.

“We need it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presided over the vote as one of her last acts in leadership before stepping aside in January. “It is magic.”

The bill is “a glorious triumph of love and freedom”, Pelosi said, tearing up as she celebrated its passage.

In debate before the vote, several gay members of Congress talked about what a federal law would mean for them and their families. Representative Mark Pocan said he and his husband should be able to visit each other in the hospital just like any other married couple and receive spousal benefits “regardless of if your spouse’s name is Samuel or Samantha”.