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A vote to codify same-sex marriage into federal law split House Republicans on Tuesday, with roughly a third of the GOP conference voting with Democrats in favor and the rest opposing.
In a 267-157 vote, the House passed legislation repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and enshrining protections for gay marriage into federal law. Overall, 47 House Republicans voted with nearly every single Democrat to back the measure, dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act.
"This legislation guarantees that no married couple can be denied equal protection under federal law," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "This is really very important: from tax provisions to Social Security benefits and more, even if the Court were to erase marriage freedom, God forbid."
GOP support for the bill came from the party's moderate wing. High-profile GOP supporters included Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming — both of whom are recognized as avowed opponents of former President Donald Trump.
The vote was held in response to the Supreme Court's recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. In its decision to throw abortion back to the states, the Supreme Court deemed that there was no federal right to abortion.
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas went a step further by authoring a concurring opinion that suggested the court should revisit other rulings including, gay marriage and access to contraception. The opinion set off a firestorm on the left, with Democrats arguing that the nation's highest court was preparing to strike down one precedent after another.
Out of that concern arose the Respect for Marriage Act, according to the House speaker.
"We are here because, just three weeks ago, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade: ripping away a woman's freedom over her most intimate health decisions," said Pelosi. "These radical Justices took a wrecking ball to [the] precedent of the Court and privacy in the Constitution – and placed even more of our cherished freedoms on the chopping block."
House Republicans were quick to label the legislation as a solution in search of a problem. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., went further by calling the legislation an election-year gimmick meant to give Democrats a wedge issue in face of skyrocketing inflation and President Biden's low approval numbers.
"There's not a single Republican even talking about that or any of these other categories in the law," said Johnson, who serves as vice chairman the House Republican Conference. "This is designed to divide the country. This bill is a shameful effort."
Other Republicans opposing the bill cited longstanding beliefs in federalism, arguing the issue was best left up to the states.
"This legislation would reverse the law in 35 states," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. "In 30 of those 35 states, the people of those respective states went to the ballot and voted for that …. it would undo what the people [wanted]."
A majority of House Republicans appeared to agree the legislation was flawed and voted against it.
The legislation now heads to the 50-50 Senate where it faces an uncertain fate. For the bill to become law it needs the support of at least 10 GOP senators, something it does not have at the moment, to overcome an expected filibuster.
At least one leading GOP moderate within the chamber, Sen. Bill Cassidy, has called the bill "silly."
"It should be seen transparently as what it is," said Cassidy, R-La. "A messaging bull attempting to deflect their failure in real issues to go for messaging bill."
The White House refused to say on Tuesday if President Biden would be whipping in favor of the measure.