Lawmakers in support of a bill to codify marriage equality throughout the U.S., cementing rights recognized in a 2015 Supreme Court case, are optimistic that the legislation can attain the 60-vote threshold needed to avert a filibuster.
Several Republican senators have indicated support for the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that is still technically on the books that, if reinstated, would allow conservative states to discriminate against LGBTQ couples in their jurisdictions.
The bill comes in response to rising Christofascism from the Supreme Court, which has suggested that it may undo several recognized rights following its ruling upending abortion protections that were established in Roe v. Wade. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas called for reexamining Obergefell v. Hodges, a 2015 ruling from the Court that established federal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
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In addition to repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would explicitly require states to recognize marriage rights established in other states, ensuring that same-sex marriages will still be recognized in states that have homophobic statutes defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
While the bill is an important measure, activists say that marriage equality alone won’t amount to true liberation for the LGBTQ community; over the past years, there have been several attacks against LGBTQ people, including legislation targeting trans kids and efforts by far right activists to falsely label gay and trans people as groomers and sexual predators.
The Respect for Marriage Act passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, with some bipartisan support. All Democrats in the chamber voted to affirm passage. They were joined by just 47 Republicans.
The number of Republicans who joined Democrats in passing the bill represents about 22.2 percent of the total GOP caucus in the House. To pass the bill in the Senate, every Democrat plus at least 20 percent of the Republican caucus in that chamber (10 Republicans total) must vote for cloture of any filibuster attempted by the remaining GOP members.
Republican and Democratic senators in support of the bill have said that they believe they’ll get the votes necessary to make marriage equality the law of the land, essentially codifying the Obergefell decision, though most GOP senators will likely oppose the effort.
So far, at least four Republicans appear ready to support the bill. Another 16 Republicans are undecided or haven’t expressed an opinion in public statements. Eight Republicans have said that they will vote against it.
If six of the 16 undecided Republicans say they’ll back the bill, it will likely pass and be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Republican leaders in the Senate do not appear poised to make a strong push against passage of the bill.
“If and when (Democrats) bring a bill to the floor, we’ll take a hard look at it,” Republican Senate Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) said. “As you saw there was pretty good bipartisan support in the House yesterday and I expect there’d probably be the same thing you’d see in the Senate.”
The bill hasn’t officially been added to the Senate docket yet, although a group of senators have introduced a version of the bill to the upper chamber this week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said that he hopes to bring the bill up for a vote as soon as he gets “the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.”