The U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 8 passed a bill that would declare same-sex and interracial marriage a federally-recognized right.
The Respect for Marriage Act was approved in a bipartisan 258–169 vote. Thirty-nine Republicans joined all Democrats in the lower chamber to pass the bill. One Republican voted present, and four did not vote.
The content of the bill includes a codification of the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared a federal right to same-sex marriage on grounds of the 14th amendment’s “equal protection” clause.
“I began my career fighting for LGBTQ communities—and now, one of the final bills that I will sign as Speaker will ensure the federal government never again stands in the way of marrying the person you love,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a recent statement.
Critics of the bill have warned of the potential for it to target faith-based organizations, and have refuted the notion that it is merely a codification of Obergefell.
“The truth is the Respect for Marriage Act does nothing to change the status of same-sex marriage or the benefits afforded to same-sex couples following Obergefell,” the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in a blog post. “It does much, however, to endanger religious freedom.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom described the bill as “a direct attack on the religious freedom of millions of Americans with sincerely held beliefs about marriage.”
They said that by recognizing same-sex marriage in law, the bill “embeds a false definition of marriage in the American legal fabric.”
Further, they warned, “It opens the door to federal recognition of polygamous relationships” and “jeopardizes the tax-exempt status of nonprofits that exercise their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Republican proponents of the bill denied this charge, saying that it ensured that same-sex marriages would be protected while respecting the rights of faith-based institutions.
The Senate passed the final package of the Respect for Marriage Act on Nov. 28.
Ahead of a key vote to advance the package, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who often defects from his party, tied his support for the bill to this condition.
“If it includes important protections for religions and religious institutions, I will support it,” Romney told Politico.
Other Republicans, including Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) demurred from telling reporters how they would vote on advancing the bill ahead of the vote.
Ultimately, the bill garnered enough support to pass the upper chamber easily.
12 Republicans joined Democrats to support the bill, including Romney, Ernst, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
The bill will now head to President Joe Biden’s desk for final approval. He has said he will sign the legislation.
This is a developing story that will be updated.
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