U.S. Congress passes landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday gave final congressional approval to legislation providing federal recognition for same-sex marriages, a move prompted by concerns that the Supreme Court could withdraw its support for such legal recognition. reversed. relationships.

The House vote was 258-169, with all of the chamber’s Democrats and 39 Republicans voting in favor — although 169 of the chamber’s Republicans voted against it and one voted “absent.” The measure now heads to Democratic President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The Respect for Marriage Act, as it is called, won Senate approval last month.

The legislation won the support of LGBT advocates as well as several organizations and religious entities including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although many American religious conservatives are still against gay marriage as it is against the biblical scriptures.

It is narrowly written to act as a limited backstop to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, known as Obergefell v. Hodges. It would allow the federal government and the states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages as long as they were legal in the states where they took place. It makes concessions to religious groups and institutions that do not support such marriages.

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The measure would repeal the 1996 US law known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which, among other things, denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. It prohibits states from denying the validity of out-of-state marriages on the basis of sex, race or ethnicity. The Supreme Court in 1967 declared interfaith marriage bans unconstitutional.

But the legislation would not prevent states from blocking same-sex or interfaith marriages if the Supreme Court allowed them to do so. It also ensures that religious entities are not forced to provide goods or services for any marriage and protects them from tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages.

In a speech on the floor of the House before the vote, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the “ugly movement” behind attacks on LGBT rights in the United States.

The legislation “will help prevent right-wing extremists from taking the lives of loving couples, suffering children across the country and bring back hard-earned rewards,” Pelosi said.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan said the bill was “dangerous and takes the country in the wrong direction.”

When the Senate passed it by a vote of 61-36, 12 Republicans joined 49 Democrats in its support. Most Republicans in the Senate voted against it.

A broader version of the bill – without the overt protections for religious freedom – passed the House with 435 seats in August, supported by all Democrats and 47 Republicans. But to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to move forward with the legislation amid opposition from many Republican senators, its co-sponsors added an amendment clarifying that religious groups could not be sued under it.

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A group of Democratic and Republican senators wrote the legislation in response to fears that the Supreme Court, with its increasingly assertive conservative majority, might one day overturn the Obergefell ruling, which could jeopardize same-sex marriage across the country. The court has shown it was willing to reverse its own precedents as it did in June when it overturned its landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared poised Monday to rule that a Christian web designer has the right to refuse to provide services for same-sex marriages in a case the liberal justices said could empower certain businesses. discriminate based on constitutional free speech protections.

There are approximately 568,000 same-sex married couples living in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau.

Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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