Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions set for passage
The Capitol is seen amid holiday lights Wednesday evening as the House of Representatives works to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill already passed in the Senate to codify both interracial and same-gender marriage, in Washington, December 7, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is set to give final approval Thursday to legislation protecting same-sex marriages in federal law, a monumental step in a decadeslong battle for nationwide recognition of such unions that reflects a stunning turnaround in societal attitudes.

A law requiring all states to recognise same-sex marriages would come as a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalised those marriages nationwide. The bipartisan legislation would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

President Joe Biden backs the bill and said he will “promptly and proudly” sign it into law.

Democrats have moved the bill quickly through the House and Senate since the Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion. That ruling included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex marriage should also be reconsidered.

Roused to action by the court, the House passed a bill to protect the same-sex unions in July with the support of 47 Republicans, a robust and unexpected show of support that kick-started serious negotiations in the Senate. After months of talks, the Senate passed the legislation last week with 12 Republican votes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, has said she is happy that the marriage legislation will be one of her last acts in leadership before stepping aside in January. “I’m so excited,” she said of the legislation, which she said will ensure that “the federal government will never again stand in the way of marrying the person you love.”

The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as the Obergefell ruling now does. But it would require states to recognise all marriages that were legal where they were performed and it would protect current same-sex unions if the court’s 2015 Obergefell v Hodges decision were to be overturned.

The bill’s supporters will be watching to see whether the 47 Republicans who previously backed the legislation will stick with it, and whether they could gain more votes especially now that it includes the additional religious liberty provisions negotiated by Senate Republicans. Heritage and other groups have been pushing Republicans who support the bill to switch their position.

The votes come as the LGBTQ community has faced violent attacks, such as the shooting earlier this month at a gay nightclub in Colorado that killed five people and injured at least 17.

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