As promised, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate have passed legislation codifying same-sex and interracial marriages into law, forcing states who might otherwise reject them should the Obergefell decision fall to the conservatives on the Roberts Court to accept marriage licenses from any other state.
The Senate passed landmark legislation on Tuesday to mandate federal recognition for same-sex marriages, as a lame-duck Congress mustered a notable moment of bipartisanship before Democrats were to lose their unified control of Capitol Hill.
The 61-to-36 vote put the bill on track to become law in the final weeks before Republicans assume the majority in the House of Representatives at the start of the new Congress in January. It marked one of the final major legislative achievements for Democrats before Republicans shift the focus in the House to conducting investigations of President Biden’s administration and family members.
The bill must now win final approval by the House in a vote expected as soon as next week, which would clear it for Mr. Biden, who said he looked forward to signing it alongside the bipartisan coalition that helped shepherd it through the Senate.
In a statement, the president said the vote reaffirmed “a fundamental truth: Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.”
There was little question that the bill’s embrace in the Senate, where proponents had a breakthrough this month in drawing a dozen Republican supporters and overcoming a filibuster, gave it the momentum required to become law.
The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. It prohibits states from denying the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race or ethnicity. But in a condition that Republican backers insisted upon, it would guarantee that religious organizations would not be required to provide any goods or services for the celebration of any marriage, and could not lose tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex unions.
“Because of our work together, the rights of tens of millions of Americans will be strengthened under federal law. That’s an accomplishment we should all be proud of,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader.
Mr. Schumer audibly choked back tears on the Senate floor as he described how his daughter, who is married to a woman and expecting a baby with her wife, had lived in fear that their union could be reversed.
“I want them to raise their child with all the love and security that every child deserves,” Mr. Schumer said, noting that he was wearing the same purple tie he had worn to their wedding. “The bill we are passing today will ensure their rights won’t be trampled upon simply because they are in a same-sex marriage.”
Passage of the legislation in the Senate marked a watershed moment for a bill that began as a messaging exercise by Democrats determined to show their commitment to protecting same-sex marriage rights amid fresh threats from a conservative-leaning Supreme Court but has morphed into a broadly supported effort on the brink of becoming law.
Probably the biggest win here is the death of DOMA, the Clinton-era bill that stood for a quarter-century and gave states the right to reject same-sex marriages performed in other states, while denying federal benefits to same-sex couples. The provisions of DOMA were killed by SCOTUS in 2013's Windsor and 2015's Obergefell decisions, but the danger is that if the conservatives on the Roberts Court reversed those decisions, and Justice Clarence Thomas in particular has stated publicly that those two decisions are not settled precedent and are "errors" that need to be revisited, DOMA would have gone into effect again.
We'll see where the SCOTUS Sinister Six go from here, but they have a lot more damage that they can do elsewhere, as we'll see this summer.
For now, expect quick passage in the House, and a bill on President Biden's desk within weeks.