U.S. Congress passes landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage

The US House of Representatives on Thursday gave final congressional approval to legislation seeking federal recognition of same-sex marriages, a move that has fueled fears that the Supreme Court could reverse its support for legal recognition of such marriages. relationship.

The House vote was 258 to 169, with all House Democrats and 39 Republicans voting in favor, although 169 of the House Republicans voted against and one in favor. The measure now heads to Democratic President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The Dignity of Marriage Act, as it’s called, won Senate approval last month.

The legislation won support from LGBT advocates as well as several religious organizations and entities, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although many American religious conservatives still oppose gay marriage as unscriptural.

It is narrowly written to act as limited support for the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, known as Obergefell v. Hodges. It would allow the federal government and states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages as long as they are legal in the states where they took place. It makes concessions to religious groups and institutions that do not support such marriages.

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The measure would repeal a 1996 US law called the Defense of Marriage Act, which among other things denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. It prevents states from denying the validity of out-of-state marriages based on gender, race or ethnicity. In 1967, the Supreme Court declared bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional.

But the legislation would not prevent states from blocking same-sex or interracial marriage if the Supreme Court allows them to do so. It also ensures that religious entities are not forced to provide goods or services to any marriage and protects them from being denied tax-exempt status or other benefits if they refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.

In a speech to the House before the vote, Democratic Party Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the “hateful movement” behind attacks on LGBT rights in the United States.

The legislation “will help prevent right-wing extremists from twisting the lives of loving couples, traumatizing children across the country and rolling back hard-won awards,” Pelosi said.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said the bill is “dangerous and takes the country in the wrong direction.”

When it passed the Senate by a 61-36 vote, 12 Republicans joined 49 Democrats in supporting it. Most Senate Republicans voted against it.

A broader version of the bill, without explicit religious freedom protections, passed the House in August with 435 seats, supported by all Democrats and 47 Republicans. But in order to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to proceed with the bill against the opposition of many Republican senators, its co-sponsors added an amendment clarifying that religious groups cannot be sued under the law.

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The legislation was drafted by a group of Democratic and Republican senators in response to concerns that the Supreme Court, with its increasingly conservative majority, might one day overturn the Obergefell ruling, potentially threatening same-sex marriage across the country. The court has shown a willingness to change its precedents, as it did in June when it overturned its landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared poised Monday to rule that a Christian web designer has the right to refuse to provide services for same-sex marriages, after liberal justices said it could give some businesses the right to discriminate based on constitutional free speech protections.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 568,000 married same-sex couples in the US.

Moira Warburton reports; Editing: Will Dunham and Scott Malone

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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