House passes gay and interracial marriage protection bill, send to Biden for signature

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on Thursday finally passed a bill reaffirming the legality of same-sex and interracial marriage, sending it to President Biden and ending long-standing debates on the issue.

The bill passed by a vote of 258 to 169, with 39 House Republicans voting in favor, down from a previous vote in July. The Senate passed Bill 61-36 in late November.

Same-sex and interracial marriages were legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court — in 2015 and 1967 respectively — and the bill was drafted out of concern that the court might backtrack after ending federal abortion laws in June.

There was no debate across the House on Tuesday, but outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried to frame the moment by saying: “Since the Supreme Court’s monstrous decision Roe v. To overthrow Wade, right-wing forces have turned their attention to this fundamental personal freedom.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82, backed the bill in one of her final acts before stepping down from the Democratic leadership in January.
AFP via Getty Images

“The Marriage Respect Act will help stop far-right extremists from disrupting the lives of lovers, traumatizing children across the country and turning back the clock on hard-won gains,” Pelosi said, adding, “it rip off the bigots and unconstitutional defenses of marriage forever.”

In 1996, Biden and many other Democrats joined an overwhelming majority supporting the defense of marriage to ban federal recognition of gay-lesbian relationships and allow states to reject marriage licenses issued in other jurisdictions.

This bill denied gays and lesbians health, tax, immigration and inheritance rights, and swept the Senate 85-14 and House 342-67, with Pelosi voting against before President Bill Clinton signed it into law.

In 2012, as vice president, Biden abandoned his opposition to same-sex marriage amid growing public support for the reform — a year after New York joined five other states and legislated to expand marriage rights. President Barack Obama dropped his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriages shortly after Biden.

Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage
Jim Obergefell, left, with his late husband, John Arthur. Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. He sued to be included on Arthur’s death certificate after he died of ALS in 2013.

Gallup polls first showed majority support for same-sex marriage in 2011, and in May 71% of US adults said the government should recognize its validity.

The Senate passed the bill with the support of 12 Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who in the 2010 session of Congress salvaged an ultimately successful attempt to end the military’s ban on gay and lesbian members.

Conservatives opposed to the law said they expected a spate of lawsuits against religious groups and individuals.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) predicted that “a myriad of lawsuits would soon be filed to test the new limits of this law.”

Supporters of the bill insisted it would not increase the liability of people who disapprove of such unions.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said during the Senate debate that the bill “protects everything from the tax status of religious nonprofits to the accreditation of religious schools to the contracts between religious adoption providers and the government from being attacked with the bill.”

He added: “It ensures that non-profit religious organizations – including churches, mosques, synagogues, religious schools and others – cannot be required to provide facilities, goods or services for marriages or celebrations against their will.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, his daughter Alison and her wife
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cited his lesbian daughter Alison Schumer, who is in a same-sex marriage, during the debate on the bill.
AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the June 24 ruling overthrowing Roe. v. Written by Judge Samuel Alito, Wade accused dissenting judges of trying to “incite unfounded fear that our decision will jeopardize other rulings” that legalized contraceptive use and gay and mixed marriage.

The majority opinion read: “To ensure our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision affects the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this Opinion should be construed as challenging precedents unrelated to abortion.”

However, a unanimous opinion of Judge Clarence Thomas said, “In future cases, we should revisit all of this court’s material due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell.” Thomas, who is currently in an interracial marriage, did not challenge the court on, the judgment Loving v. Reconsider Virginia from 1967.

Some Republicans, who support legal same-sex marriage, opposed the legislation as unnecessary.

“In a fit of hysteria sparked by a phrase in a consensus opinion from Judge Thomas, Democrats have attempted to introduce legislation codifying Obergefell against Hodges,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said. tweeted during the July plenary debate. “This holding company is not in danger. Gay marriage doesn’t offend me nearly as much as this legislation’s insult to federalism.” House passes gay and interracial marriage protection bill, send to Biden for signature


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