U.S. House passes bill protecting all marriages

47 in GOP join bid to codify same-sex, mixed matrimony

FILE - Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2021. The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday, July 19, 2022, to protect same-sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion access could jeopardize other rights criticized by many conservative Americans. “For me, this is personal,” said Jones, who said he was among the openly gay members of the House.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
FILE - Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2021. The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday, July 19, 2022, to protect same-sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion access could jeopardize other rights criticized by many conservative Americans. “For me, this is personal,” said Jones, who said he was among the openly gay members of the House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday to protect same-sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion access could jeopardize other rights criticized by many conservative Americans.

In a debate, Democrats argued in favor of enshrining marriage equality in federal law, while Republicans steered clear of openly rejecting gay marriage. Instead, leading Republicans portrayed the bill as unnecessary amid other issues facing the nation.

The Respect for Marriage Act would codify the federal protections for same-sex couples that were put in place in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges established same-sex marriage as a right under the 14th Amendment. The legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defined a marriage as the union between a man and a woman, a law that was struck down by Obergefell but has remained on the books.

The vote was partly political strategy, forcing all House members, Republicans and Democrats, to go on the record with their views. It also reflected that the legislative branch is pushing back against an aggressive court that has sparked fears it may revisit apparently settled U.S. laws.

Wary of political fallout, GOP leaders did not press their lawmakers to hold the party line against the bill, aides said. In all, 47 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for passage.

In the fall, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., dropped her long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage, saying, "I was wrong." On Tuesday, Cheney, whose sister Mary Cheney is gay and married with children, voted to codify same-sex marriage protections.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, another Republican who backed the bill, said in a statement that she still feels remorse for opposing same-sex marriage more than a decade ago as a state legislator.

"In 2017, I expressed my deep regret for voting against a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York state while in the state Assembly six years prior," Malliotakis said. "Every legislator has votes they regret, and to this day, that vote was one of the most difficult I've had to take."

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who has previously supported same-sex marriage, said she backed the measure because it was "constitutionally sound."


"If this gives some peace of mind to ensure the institution of marriage is protected, then that's what I'll vote for," Mace said.

While the Respect for Marriage Act easily passed the House with a Democratic majority, it is likely to stall in the evenly split Senate, where most Republicans would probably join a filibuster to block it.

It's one of several bills, including those enshrining abortion access, that Democrats are proposing to confront the court's conservative majority. Another bill, guaranteeing access to contraceptive services, is set for a vote later this week.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday in support of the bill, a version of which is co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Polling shows that a majority of Americans favor preserving rights to marry whom one wishes, regardless of the person's sex, gender, race or ethnicity, a long-building shift in modern mores toward inclusion.

A Gallup poll in June showed broad and increasing support for same-sex marriage, with 70% of U.S. adults saying they think such unions should be recognized by law as valid. The poll showed majority support among 83% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans.

"For me, this is personal," said Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who said he was among the openly gay members of the House.

"Imagine telling the next generation of Americans, my generation, we no longer have the right to marry," he said. "Congress can't allow that to happen."

Ahead of voting, a number of lawmakers joined protesters demonstrating against the abortion ruling outside the Supreme Court, which sits across from the Capitol and remains fenced off for security during tumultuous political times. The U.S. Capitol Police said among those arrested Tuesday were 16 members of Congress.

"The extremist right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has put our country down a perilous path," said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., in a floor speech setting Tuesday's process in motion.

As several Democrats spoke of inequalities they said that they or their loved ones faced in same-sex marriages, the Republicans talked about rising gas prices, inflation and crime, including recent threats to justices in connection with the abortion ruling.

"It's time for our colleagues across the aisle to stand up and be counted," Scanlon said. "Will they vote to protect these fundamental freedoms? Or will they vote to let states take those freedoms away?"

Republicans insisted Tuesday that the court was only focused on abortion access in June when it struck down the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling, and they argued that same-sex marriage and other rights were not threatened.

In fact, of all the Republicans who rose to speak during the morning debate, almost none directly broached the subject of same-sex or interracial marriage.

"We are debating this bill today because it is an election year. ... We are here for political messaging," said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

SENATE CHALLENGE

Even as the Respect for Marriage Act passed the House with Republican votes, the outcome in the Senate is hardly favorable.

"I'm probably not inclined to support it," said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. "The predicate of this is just wrong. I don't think the Supreme Court is going to overturn any of that stuff."

For Republicans in Congress, the Trump-era confirmation of conservative justices to the Supreme Court fulfilled a long-term GOP goal of revisiting many social, environmental and regulatory issues the party has been unable to tackle on its own by passing bills that could be signed into law.

But in a notable silence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to express his view on the bill, leaving an open question over how strongly his party would fight it, if it even comes up for a vote in the upper chamber.

"I don't see anything behind this right now other than, you know, election-year politics," said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D.

Last month, writing for the majority in overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito argued for a more narrow interpretation of the rights guaranteed to Americans, noting that the right to an abortion was not spelled out in the Constitution.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas went further, saying other rulings similar to Roe, including those around same-sex marriage and the right for couples to use contraception, should be reconsidered.

While Alito insisted in the majority opinion that "this decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right," others have taken notice.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., did not commit to bringing up the measure but said he was "going to look at everything that we can do to deal with these issues" after the Dobbs decision.

"Let's face it: This is a MAGA [Make America Great Again] Supreme Court -- a MAGA, right-wing extremist Supreme Court -- very, very far away from not only where the average American is, but even the average Republican," Schumer said.

He pointed to comments from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said over the weekend that the Supreme Court's decision protecting marriage equality was "clearly wrong" and state legislatures should visit the issue.

The Respect for Marriage Act would also provide legal protections for interracial marriages by prohibiting any state from denying out-of-state marriage licenses and benefits on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.

Approval of interracial marriage in the U.S. hit a six-decade high at 94% in September, according to Gallup.

Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and now running as a Democrat for the Ohio House, said after the court's ruling on abortion, "When we lose one right that we have relied on and enjoyed, other rights are at risk."

Information for this article was contributed by Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press and by Stephanie Lai of The New York Times.

  photo  FILE - With the U.S. Capitol in the background, a person waves a rainbow flag as they participant in a rally in support of the LGBTQIA+ community at Freedom Plaza, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Washington. The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday, July, 19, 2022, to protect same-sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion access could jeopardize other rights criticized by many conservative Americans. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
 
 


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