Same-sex marriage protection bill passes US Congress News
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Same-sex marriage protection bill passes US Congress

The US House of Representatives Thursday issued final approval to the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to federally recognize same-sex marriages, in a vote of 258 to 169. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden for approval.

The Respect for Marriage Act formally repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 bill which established the federal definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The bill’s provisions were invalidated by Supreme Court rulings in United Sates v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges.

In his concurring opinion to Dobbs v. Jackson Womens Health Organization, Justice Clarence Thomas questioned the legitimacy of Obergefell and said justices should “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” including Obergefell. If Obergefell is overturned, states would be free to ban same-sex marriages. However, the Respect for Marriage Act ensures that the federal government – and individual states in many circumstances – would still recognize existing same-sex marriages.

Director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project James Esseks cautioned observers that the bill is “actually fairly limited” but “signals how far public conversations around marriage equality have evolved in recent years.”

On November 29, the Senate passed the bill with amendments preserving the ability of religious organizations to refuse “to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” Thursday’s vote in the House accepted the Senate’s amendments.