Yesterday was a red-letter day for human rights in the U.S. Senate. The senate passed a bill, the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), that, if it passes in the House of Representatives, will codify protection for same-sex marriage. Now, that in itself is an accomplishment worthy of a big WHOO HOO!!! But even more encouraging, the bill was passed by a margin of 62-37 with 12 Republicans voting in favour! I had been reading for days about the Republican/conservative backlash against this bill, so when I heard that 12 Republicans voted to protect same-sex marriage, I was stunned … in a good way!
Republican Susan Collins joined forces with Democrat Tammy Baldwin and worked across the aisle to rally support for this bill. Those Republicans who voted in favour deserve recognition. In addition to Susan Collins, they are …
- Rob Portman (Ohio)
- Thom Tillis (N.C.)
- Mitt Romney (Utah)
- Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
- Roy Blunt (Mo.)
- Richard Burr (N.C.)
- Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.)
- Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)
- Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
- Joni Ernst (Iowa)
- Todd Young (Ind.)
Thank you, Senators!
The RFMA repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. It also requires that every state recognize a valid same-sex marriage. It does fall short of requiring that every state issue licenses for same-sex marriages. The reason for this distinction is to keep the bill from being overridden by the Supreme Court who has previously ruled that the federal government cannot “commandeer” states to enforce federal laws or pass specific statutes. If Congress compelled states to license same-sex marriages, the judiciary would invalidate the law as a violation of this anti-commandeering doctrine.
There has been a very real concern that the Supreme Court is poised to strike down Obergefell v Hodges, the case that requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages. Once signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will make it more difficult for the Court to overturn the 2015 decision.
As an added bonus, the bill would also protect inter-racial marriages if the ultra-conservative, backward-looking Supreme Court were to decide to overturn the 1967 ruling in Loving v Virginia the ruling that laws banning interracial marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Next, the bill moves to the House where it is expected to pass, possibly by the end of this week. If they table it until January, it will be doomed to fail, but at present there is no reason to think it won’t pass the House and be signed into law by President Biden at least by the end of the year. Score one for human rights, for civil rights, for LGBTQ rights! Score one for bipartisanship.