(WB) The U.S. House approved on Tuesday with significant bipartisan support the Respect for Marriage Act, signaling support for ensuring marriage rights for same-sex couples amid fears basic rights are at threat in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Lawmakers approved the measure, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), by a 267-157 vote, with 47 Republicans joining the unanimous Democrats caucus in supporting the legislation. The Washington Blade will updated details on the vote breakdown when they become available from the clerk’s office.
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a Black lawmaker who one’s of nine openly gay or lesbian members of Congress, was among those who spoke on the House floor ahead of the floor and said the vote on the measure was “personal” for him.
“I still remember where I was on June 24, 2011 — the day the New York State legislature passed marriage equality,” Jones said. “I was living with friends in New York City, but I was still closeted, and I was so afraid still that someone might find out the truth about my being gay. So, instead, I closed the door to my room and cried tears of joy by my lonesome. Finally, my home state of New York had recognized me as a full human being. Affirmed all of those scary, yet beautiful, feelings that I had bottled up inside for decades – wondering, hoping, one day the world would change.”
A key point of the Democrats argument for the advancing the Respect for Marriage Act was the concurrence to the Dobbs decision against abortion rights written by U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, where he spelled out his inclination to revisit the landmark decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, including the Obergefell decision for same-sex marriage as well as the 2003 the striking down states sodomy bans in Lawrence v. Texas and the 1965 decision striking down state bans on contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) significantly drew on Thomas’ concurrence in her remarks on the House floor in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, saying it was evidence of a greater plot from the Republican Party to undermine the right for same-sex couples to marry.
“We must act now to defend same sex and inter racial marriage from the bigotry and extremism in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” Pelosi said. “With marriage rights now squarely in Republican crossfires, Democrats are ferociously fighting back. With a landmark Respect for Marriage Act, we ensure that marriage equality remains the law of the land now and for generations to come.”
The Respect for Marriage Act wouldn’t keep same-sex marriage the law of the land if the Supreme Court were to strike down Obergefell per see, but repeal from the books the Defense of Marriage Act, whom the Supreme Court struck down in 2013, and require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. There would be constitutional issues if Congress requiring states out-and-out to accommodate same-sex couples in their marriage laws, which have been under the jurisdiction of the states.
A number of Republicans broke ranks with their caucus to vote in favor of the legislation. Log Cabin Republicans, which has taken a mixed approach to LGBTQ issues in recent years compared to other LGBTQ groups, was among the organization encouraging lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill.
Republican leadership in the U.S. House didn’t whipping the vote — one way or the other — ahead of floor vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, two Republican insiders told the Washington Blade.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Calif.), one of the 47 Republicans who voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, told top Republicans announced in their caucus meeting that morning they wouldn’t whip the vote on the bill.
“I always have and always will support the right of any American to marry,” Mace said in a statement. “This vote is no different. I believe any two people, regardless of the color of their skin or gender or orientation or otherwise, should be free to enter into marriage together. If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them.”
But the majority held the vote with some declaring on the House floor the Respect for Marriage would impede on states’ rights.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) was among those on the House floor decrying the Democratic leadership for forcing a vote on the Respect for Marriage Act.
“We’re going to make a decision here about the recognition of marriages across state lines, where there are differences of opinion, still to this day, about how one defines marriage,” Roy said. “In the name of full faith and credit…Republicans will be voting on this floor today on the question of whether the federal government should tell Texas what marriage is they have to recognize, irrespective of what the court has said. That is a vote. That is a choice.”
The Respect for Marriage Act now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it will face an uphill battle in a chamber that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and advance to a vote on legislation. The Blade has placed a request in with the office of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) seeking comment on when he’d schedule a floor vote on the bill.
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