(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Gives Final Approval to Respect for Marriage Act

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday took a final vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, sending the landmark legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk where it will be signed into law with 258 votes in favor, 169 opposed, and one member voting “present.”

Members in the lower chamber had already passed the Respect for Marriage Act this summer, 267-167, with 47 Republican “yes” votes. The matter before the House today was whether to approve an amendment that was added by the U.S. Senate to enshrine protections for religious liberties.

The Senate cleared the Respect for Marriage Act on Nov. 29, just barely clearing the 60-vote threshold to avert a filibuster with 61 votes in favor of passing the legislation.

Once signed into law, the bill will protect same-sex couples in the U.S. from many of the most harmful consequences that would result if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or substantially weakens constitutional protections for same-sex marriage.

After voting today, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) told the Washington Blade outside the Speaker’s Lobby in the U.S. Capitol that passage of this bill is “really a watershed moment,” as it marks “the first time we’ve adopted marriage equality legislatively in this country.”

When New Hampshire’s legislature passed same-sex marriage in 2009, “at the time, we needed to make some clarifications in the text of the legislation to protect religious freedom to bring along the majority that we needed to pass the bill,” said Pappas, who is the state’s first openly gay member of Congress.

“This is a similar situation, here, to get to 60 in the Senate,” for a filibuster proof majority, and “to get a big bipartisan vote in the House,” Pappas said, adding that “in a logical world” the amendment might earn a few more GOP votes this time around.

“Congress has restored a measure of security to millions of marriages and families,” President Biden said in a statement following the vote. “They have also provided hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they build.”

Asked what to expect from the next Congress in terms of legislative protections for LGBTQ rights, Pappas said it will be important to continue conversations about the Equality Act to bring more Republican Members on board.

Additionally, he said, “I’m working on legislation that deals with the legacy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and making sure that our veterans get access to the care and benefits that they deserve.” Thousands of service members were “discharged wrongfully from the military just because of who they were, and while the administration has taken some positive steps, we need to submit legislation to make sure they get the help they need,” Pappas said.

The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus released a statement celebrating the House’s vote on Thursday.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a bipartisan triumph and a testament that love will always win in the end,” said U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs the caucus.

“After the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and Justice Thomas’ alarming concurring opinion, it became imperative that Congress do everything we constitutionally could do to ensure that marriages across this country continue to be protected,” he said. “Today, Congress did what needed to be done.”

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) also released a statement.

“We are thrilled that the Respect for Marriage Act passed both the Senate and the House with robust bipartisan support. This commonsense legislation provides certainty to millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages, who will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages,” it read. “At the same time, our legislation fully respects and protects religious liberty and diverse beliefs about marriage. This is an important and historic step forward in ensuring dignity and respect for all Americans.”

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/