Senate Takes Crucial Step Toward Codifying Marriage Equality

A law that would codify federal protections for same-sex marriages cleared a procedural hurdle in the U.S Senate on Wednesday, overcoming the 60-vote filibuster threshold and setting the stage for approval.

Senators voted 62-37 in favor of ending debate on the Respect for Marriage Act and advancing it to the floor for an up-or-down vote. Twelve Republicans joined the Democratic caucus in support of the bill.

“This is huge,” advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted. “The vote on final passage could happen as soon as this week.”

The marriage equality legislation comes months after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sparked outrage over his Dobbs v. Jackson concurring opinion that suggested the reversal of the 2015 landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision — which recognizes same-sex unions — while also attacking precedents that protect the rights to contraception and interracial marriage.

“The right to marry the person you love shouldn’t be up for debate,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted. “But Justice Clarence Thomas warned that he’d put it at risk — so the Senate is taking action to protect marriage equality no matter what the Supreme Court does. We’re going to get this done.”

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who is one of nine openly gay members of the U.S. House, previously denounced Thomas’ remarks on the chamber floor and called on the Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act on Wednesday.

The House approved the Respect for Marriage Act in July. However, if it passes the Senate with a bipartisan amendment, it will have to return to the House for another vote before it goes to President Joe Biden’s desk.

After the Senate vote Wednesday, Biden said he would “promptly sign it into law.”

“Love is love and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” Biden tweeted. “Today’s bipartisan Senate vote gets us closer to protecting that right. The Respect for Marriage Act protects all couples under law I urge Congress to send the bill to my desk so I can make it law.”