Washington — The Senate will vote Wednesday on whether to advance legislation that would enshrine marriage equality into federal law, a crucial test vote that could clear the way for the measure’s passage.
Sixty votes are needed for the bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, to move forward in the upper chamber, meaning it needs the support of at least 10 Republicans. Drafters of the plan expect it to garner that level of backing from the GOP after a bipartisan group of senators madeto protect religious liberty.
Shortly after the five senators involved in negotiations over the legislation unveiled their amendment Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved to set up Wednesday’s procedural vote. Clearing the 60-vote threshold allows debate to start on the measure and puts the legislation closer to final passage.
The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and safeguards interracial marriage by requiring the federal government to recognize valid marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.”
Introduced after the Supreme Court— and amid concerns from Democrats that a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas left decisions from the high court protecting the right to same-sex marriage under threat — the bill easily in July with support from 47 Republicans. While several GOP senators also expressed support for the plan, Schumer agreed to postpone a vote on the legislation until after the midterm elections after some Republicans worried it would endanger religious freedom.
To assuage their concerns, the amendment ensures nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage, and protects religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution and federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It also makes clear the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriage and safeguards any benefit or status — such as tax-exemptions, grants, contracts or educational funding — of an entity so long as it does not arise from a marriage.
The amendment “recognizes the importance of marriage, acknowledges that diverse beliefs and the people who hold them are due respect, and affirms that couples, including same-sex and interracial couples, deserve the dignity, stability and ongoing protection of marriage,” according to the bipartisan group.
If the bill passes the Senate, it will have to be taken up by the House once again before going to President Biden’s desk for his signature.