(The Center Square) The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to end debate on legislation to codify same-sex marriage protections, a largely symbolic measure since they were under no present threat of being repealed.
The procedural action does not fully pass the bill out of the Senate, but sets it up for likely passage later this week with a possible vote Thursday. Several squishy Republican senatros have said they will support it.
Her office said the so-called Respect for Marriage Act would “require the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed.”
Notably, the bill would “guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin, but the bill would not require a State to issue a marriage license contrary to state law.”
“The Respect for Marriage Act is a needed step to provide millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages the certainty that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages,” Sens. Baldwin, Susan Collins, R-Maine; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a joint statement.
While it is intended to be an update of the Bill Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, the current bill notes in its summary that the Supreme Court already has ruled several of those provisions to be unconstitutional.
In 2013’s United States v. Windsor, the court struck down the law’s definition of marriage as being “between a man and a woman,” instead recognizing “any marriage that is valid under state law.”
However, the new federal bill would require other states to recognizes same-sex marriages that occur in states where it is recognized.
It would “prohibit the denial of full faith and credit or any right or claim relating to out-of-state marriages on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”
It further would codify 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which said states could not bar same-sex marriages, as well as 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, which prohibited states from barring interracial marriages.
“The bill allows the Department of Justice to bring a civil action and establishes a private right of action for violations,” according to its summary.
A key sticking point for the legislative effort has been religious liberty protections.
First Amendment advocates fear the bill could be weaponized to target conscientious objectors as demonstrated by lawsuits around the country against florists, bakers and other small businesses unwilling to participate in same-sex ceremonies.
“Unfortunately, the bill under consideration by the U.S. Senate does not adequately protect the religious liberties of all Americans, as guaranteed by the Constitution,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said in a statement.
“Thankfully, Senator Mike Lee has an amendment to both codify protections for same-sex marriage into law AND maintain ironclad protections for religious liberty,” he continued. “I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in supporting Senator Lee’s amendment and working together to get this done the right way and with overwhelming support.”
Baldwin’s office has addressed those concerns, claiming “non-profit religious organizations will not be required to provide any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”
However, critics say any provisions of that kind could still quietly be removed later.
“The deceitfully named Respect for Marriage Act will be voted on by the US Senate this week, as early as Wednesday,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and son of Billy Graham. “The bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals [and] ministries [and] is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.’”