More good news: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made good on his promise to bring the Respect for Marriage Act up for a vote after the midterm elections. Schumer set up the first procedural vote for Wednesday on the bill that would enshrine marriage equality into federal law. In an interview on Rachel Maddow’s show Monday night, Schumer said he was “optimistic” that they had secured the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
“I’m going to set up the first procedural vote on legislation that will codify marriage equality into law. Members should expect the first vote on Wednesday,” Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor. “No American should ever be discriminated against because of who they love and passing this bill would secure much needed safeguards into federal law.”
(Schumer’s comments on the Respect for Marriage Act begin at the 4:30 mark.)
In July, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act by a vote of 267 to 157, with 47 Republicans actually voting in favor of it. The Respect for Marriage Act would require that someone be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was registered. If you live in a state where it’s not legal, however, the act is not particularly helpful. The bill would also repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, but remained on the books. And the bill would provide additional legal protections against any efforts to use state law to undermine marriage equality.
The need for such legislation became clear in June after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which for nearly half a century had guaranteed abortion rights. In a concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued that SCOTUS “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.
Schumer took a lot of criticism when he decided to delay the vote until after the midterms rather than bring it up for an immediate vote and put Republicans on the spot by making it a campaign issue. The decision to postpone the vote was negotiated on a bipartisan basis and was made to ensure that there were enough Republican votes to pass the measure. Schumer told Maddow: “My job is to get things done.”
On Monday, the path to a Senate vote was cleared when a bipartisan group of senators agreed to add language to the bill that would provide protections for religious liberties. The statement was issued by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat; Republican Susan Collins of Maine; Republican Rob Portman of Ohio; Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; and Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Their statement read:
“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.
“Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language to confirm that this legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality, We look forward to this legislation coming to the floor and are confident that this amendment has helped earn the broad, bipartisan support needed to pass our commonsense legislation into law.”
If the Senate passes the bill, it would have to go back to the House for a vote because of changes made to the House bill.
On Maddow’s show, Schumer said passage of the bill is “personal” to him. Like the kvelling Jewish grandfather-to-be that he is, he said his daughter and her wife are expecting a baby in a few months.
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