Today's Edition Local Missouri Opinion Obits Sports GoMidMo HER Magazine Events Classifieds Public notices Newsletters Election '23 Contests Jobs Special Sections National World
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions clears Congress

by The Associated Press | December 9, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., center left, and other members of congress, signs the H.R. 8404, the Respect For Marriage Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By MARY CLARE JALONICK

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House gave final approval Thursday to legislation protecting same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decadeslong battle for nationwide recognition that reflects a stark turnaround in societal attitudes.

President Joe Biden has said he will promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages. It is a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme Court's 2015 decision that legalized those marriages and have worried about what would happen if the ruling were overturned.

In a statement after the vote, Biden called the legislation a "critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love." He said the legislation provides "hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they build."

The bipartisan legislation, which passed 258-169 with 39 Republican votes, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of "sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin." After months of negotiations, the Senate passed the bill last week with 12 Republican votes.

Democrats moved the bill quickly through the House and Senate after the Supreme Court's decision in June that overturned the federal right to an abortion -- including a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing same-sex marriage could also be reconsidered.

"We need it," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presided over the vote as one of her last acts in leadership before stepping aside in January. "It is magic."

The bill is "a glorious triumph of love and freedom," Pelosi said, tearing up as she celebrated its passage.

In debate before the vote, several gay members of Congress talked about what a federal law would mean for them and their families. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said he and his husband should be able to visit each other in the hospital just like any other married couple and receive spousal benefits "regardless of if your spouse's name is Samuel or Samantha."

Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., said he was set to marry "the love of my life" next year and it is "unthinkable" that his marriage might not be recognized in some states if Obergefell were to be overturned.

"The idea of marriage equality used to be a far-fetched idea," said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. "Now it's the law of the land and supported by the vast majority of Americans."

"To me this is really just standing with the Constitution," said Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, who voted for the bill both times. She pushed back on GOP arguments that it would affect the religious rights of those who don't believe in same-sex marriage.

"No one's religious liberties are affected in any way, shape or form," Wagner said.

"Civil rights are not a finite resource, we do not have to take from one group to give to another," GOP Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah said.

The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as Obergefell now does. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed and protect current same-sex unions if the Supreme Court decision were overturned.

While it's not everything advocates may have wanted, passage of the legislation represents a watershed moment. Just a decade ago, many Republicans openly campaigned on blocking same-sex marriages; today more than two-thirds of the public support them.

Still, most Republicans opposed the legislation and some conservative advocacy groups lobbied aggressively against it in recent weeks, arguing that it doesn't do enough to protect those who want to refuse services for same-sex couples.

"God's perfect design is indeed marriage between one man and one woman for life," said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va, before the vote. "And it doesn't matter what you think or what I think, that's what the Bible says."

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., choked up as she begged colleagues to vote against the bill, which she said undermines "natural marriage" between a man and a woman.

"I'll tell you my priorities," Hartzler said. "Protect religious liberty, protect people of faith and protect Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage."

Print Headline: Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions clears Congress

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT