Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill of 258-169, a bill that would codify protections for same-sex marriage into law, despite opposition from most Republican lawmakers who argue the bill’s language violates religious freedoms. The bill will be sent to President Biden for his signature.
With the assistance of some Republicans, House Democrats supported the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which legally defined marriage as between one man and one woman and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the chamber would vote on the bill on Tuesday. However, due to a busy lame-duck session before the end of the year, the vote was delayed until Thursday.
The bill would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry in accordance with the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges. It would, however, require the federal government to recognize marriages if they were valid in the state where they took place and require any “person acting under color of state law” to recognize marriages between two people in another state.
When the lower chamber passed a previous bill version, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) stated, “It is crucial to ensure that federal law protects those whose constitutional rights may be threatened by Republican-controlled state legislatures.”
“LGBTQ Americans and those in interracial marriages deserve the assurance that their right to equal marriage will continue to be recognized regardless of where they live,” Hoyer said.
The vote comes after U.S. senators advanced landmark legislation that codifies federal protections for interracial marriages last week, 61-36 after Senate Democrats worked to garner 10 Republican votes — sufficient to clear the filibuster threshold of 60 votes.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) urged his Republican colleagues to include protections for anyone with a religious or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman in the legislation.
Lee introduced an amendment prohibiting federal bureaucrats from discriminating against individuals, organizations, and other religious entities by revoking tax-exempt status, licenses, contracts, and other benefits.
“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage,” he wrote, “we should make it explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits.” “As we move forward, let’s keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of the courtroom in the first instance.”
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who voted in favor of the bill, stated that it would not affect the rights of private citizens or businesses already protected by law.
Romney said in a statement, “This legislation provides important protections for religious liberty — measures that are especially important to protect the religious freedoms of our faith-based institutions.” “Although I believe in traditional marriage, LGBTQ individuals have relied on Obergefell as the law of the land. This legislation provides certainty to many LGBTQ Americans and demonstrates that Congress — and I — hold all of our fellow citizens in equal esteem and love.”
The bill is now sent to President Joe Biden, who has promised to sign it into law.