The U.S. Senate voted to advance a bill that gives federal protections to same-sex and interracial marriages in a vote of 62-37.
“Marriage equality is too important an issue to risk failure,” said Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ahead of the vote.
Wednesday’s procedural vote was important because it shows there is likely enough Republican support for the measure to pass in the full Senate.
The Respect for Marriage Act includes a recently negotiated bipartisan amendment aimed at protecting religious liberties.
The amendment says nonprofit religious organizations are not required to provide services for marriages.
“I’m proud to be the lead Republican sponsor of this legislation and I’m grateful that a similar bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). “It would guarantee that a valid marriage between two individuals in one state is given full faith and credit by other states.”
Same-sex and interracial marriages are currently the law of the land.
But supporters of gay marriage rights grew worried after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas signaled that he wanted the high court to also revisit the ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
“It’s pretty clear we have a U.S. Supreme Court that is far, far, far out of step with the country,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “We’re very concerned that they would think for whatever reason that they should interfere in decisions between two people who love each other.”
Democrats need at least ten Republicans for the bill to pass in the full Senate, and 12 Republicans voted yes during Wednesday’s procedural vote.
Republicans who voted against the measure called it unnecessary and a threat to religious freedoms.
“The measure presented to the Senate does not sufficiently protect the religious liberties and First Amendment rights of individuals, businesses, and religious-oriented schools and organizations that believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” said Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) “I cannot dismiss or overlook the willingness of this administration to infringe on religious liberties and other rights that don’t mesh with its radical agenda.”
The White House praised the Senate vote, releasing a statement from President Biden saying: “Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love. Today’s bipartisan vote brings the United States one step closer to protecting that right in law. The Respect for Marriage Act will ensure that LGBTQI+ couples and interracial couples are respected and protected equally under federal law, and provide more certainty to these families since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. I want to thank the Members of Congress whose leadership has sent a strong message that Republicans and Democrats can work together to secure the fundamental right of Americans to marry the person they love. I urge Congress to quickly send this bill to my desk where I will promptly sign it into law.”