The Respect for Marriage Act easily accumulated enough votes to advance Wednesday, netting 12 Republican yes votes and putting it on a glide path to final passage.
The final vote was 62 yes votes to 37 no votes, with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) not voting after his wife suffered a seizure last weekend.
Twelve Republicans joined all of the Democrats: Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Todd Young (R-IN).
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to both the House and Senate who shepherded the bill through, sat alone for much of the vote, seemingly ticking names off a pad of paper. Some members came over to congratulate her, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who gave her a high five, prompting her celebratory fist pump.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) kicked the vote until after the midterms when it became clear that it’d be easier to marshal Republican support when they were less concerned about alienating voters.
The bill was prompted by Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Dobbs decision, where he advocated for revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges.
The Respect for Marriage Act does not go as far as Obergefell: it requires that all states recognize marriages conducted where it’s legal, but does not require all states to grant same-sex marriages. If the Court overturned Obergefell, states could impose bans on same-sex marriage. The bill also critically repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which gives states the ability to not recognize same-sex marriages conducted in others. Though considered unconstitutional for now, DOMA is still on the books.
Some have criticized the bill for falling short of Obergefell — but it would provide critical protections to same-sex couples should the Supreme Court overturn its own precedent. It also may be more legally bulletproof than a bill fashioned in Obergefell’s exact mold.
“Today, the Senate made it clear that we stand with the American people by voting to move forward with the Respect For Marriage Act,” Baldwin tweeted Wednesday evening. “This is a HUGE win and we are one step closer to ensuring same-sex and interracial couples have the same rights & freedoms as everyone else!”
Take that, Clarence.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that DOMA was still on the books. Just because the Court ruled against it, however, did not repeal it, and a counter ruling later on, like what happened in Dobbs, could have put it back in force. Also, the exceptions written into this new bill that allow churches and so-called religious institutions to avoid liability in case they still wanted to discriminate, are sops to the Jesus-shouters because it’s highly unlikely that a same-sex couple is going to try to force some church into violating their principles. Besides, if you can get the Mormons on board, mission accomplished.