Senate votes to advance same-sex marriage legislation

November 17, 2022

A dozen Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Wednesday, November 16, in supporting landmark legislation that would cement same-sex marriage rights into federal law—with lawmakers aiming to get the measure to President Biden’s desk before year-end, reports The Wall Street Journal.


The 62-37 vote underscored how a once politically divisive issue now draws bipartisan support despite opposition from some social conservatives, less than a decade after same-sex marriage became legal nationwide under a 2015 Supreme Court ruling.


The Respect for Marriage Act, if signed into law, would codify the ability of same-sex as well as interracial couples to get married and require states to recognize the marriages, rights established in Supreme Court rulings. The bill needed 60 votes to proceed under Senate rules.


The proposal faces at least one more vote in the Senate and would need approval by the House by the end of the year to become law. President Joe Biden reiterated Wednesday that he backed the legislation, and the House is expected to pass it after approving a similar bill earlier this year.


Historically, many in the GOP have opposed same-sex marriage, and the vote was seen as a test of how much lawmakers’ stances have shifted in recent years amid growing public support.


“While I believe in traditional marriage,” said Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), “this legislation provides certainty to many LGBTQ Americans, and it signals that Congress—and I—esteem and love all of our fellow Americans equally.”


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against the measure.


The legislation would also repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and woman. The act passed the Senate in 1996 by an 85-14 margin and was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Court rulings later invalidated it.


“While it’s true that this law is not currently enforceable…it still represents Congress’s last word on the subject,” said Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who voted in favor of Wednesday’s measure.


May poll by Gallup found that 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage—up from 27% in 1996 ,when the organization said it first surveyed Americans on the issue.


Former Democratic President Barack Obama opposed same-sex marriage before shifting to support it in 2012. Obama had faced pressure to lay out a clear stance on the issue after Biden, then the vice president, endorsed it.


The congressional effort to pass a same-sex marriage bill started after the Supreme Court ended the federal right to an abortion in June.


Same-sex marriage supporters say outreach efforts have focused on Republicans who represent swing states and those who have family members who would be affected by the legislation. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who is gay, said he has talked with Republican senators as part of a group called Centerline Action, which is advocating for same-sex marriage protection.


From his conversations in recent months, he said in an interview, it is clear that Republican lawmakers “know people who are in relationships that are concerned” about losing their marriage protections.


Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit, organized a letter signed by more than 225 companies—including Starbucks  Apple, and Amazon—urging lawmakers to support same-sex marriage protections.


Research contact: @WSJ