In perhaps the greatest defeat conservatives have ever suffered at the hands of Republicans, the Senate today advanced Democrats’ bill to enshrine same-sex “marriage” into federal law in a vote of 62 to 37.
Twelve Republican senators joined all Democrats to move forward on the bill, the “Respect for Marriage Act,” including: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana.
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska did not vote.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky voted against the Respect for Marriage Act but refused to stake out a public position before the vote. Sen. John Thune of North Dakota, the GOP senator responsible for enforcing party discipline on important votes, also voted no, though he did not urge Republicans to oppose it.
Democrats needed 10 Republicans to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster and begin formal debate on the bill.
The legislation is now on a glide path to final passage, which would require just 51 votes and is likely to happen after the Senate’s Thanksgiving recess, CNN reported.
Today’s vote came despite the objections of many of the most prominent conservative groups in the United States, including the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom, thousands of Christian churches and institutions, and the overwhelming majority of Republican voters who oppose federal legislation to codify homosexual “marriage.”
The Respect of Marriage Act makes the redefinition of marriage the law of the land, even in the event that the Supreme Court overturns its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that mandates legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” nationwide.
The bill repeals the unenforced Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage at the federal level as a union of one man and one woman and guaranteed states’ right to uphold traditional marriage, and requires the federal government and all 50 states to recognize homosexual “marriages” lawfully performed in any state.
It also poses grave threats to religious freedom, as numerous social conservative and religious liberty organizations have repeatedly warned.
The Respect for Marriage Act includes a “private right of action” clause that allows anyone who is “harmed by a violation” of the bill to bring civil action against a person who violated it “for declaratory and injunctive relief.” Attorneys general would also be able to bring civil action against alleged violators.
“Today, the Senate chose to fuel hostility toward Americans who hold beliefs about marriage rooted in honorable religious or philosophical premises,” said Alliance Defending Freedom CEO, President, and General Counsel Kristen Waggoner.
“Right now, government officials across the country—including the Biden administration—argue in court that individuals and religious organizations who love and work with people from all walks of life should face civil and criminal penalties if they don’t abandon their beliefs on this issue,” she added.
“Make no mistake, this bill will be used by officials and activists to punish and ruin those who do not share the government’s view on marriage,” Waggoner continued, warning of “predatory lawsuits that will result from today’s vote.”
The House already passed the Respect for Marriage Act in July with an unanticipated 47 Republican votes and the blessing of Republican House leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
House Republican Whip Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York voted for it.
The Senate amended the bill ostensibly to address religious liberty concerns, but the new language has faced blistering, widespread criticism from conservatives for failing to include meaningful protections. The revised Senate version is expected to pass the House again in a simple majority vote later this year.
The Republicans were projected on Wednesday to flip control of the House. They won’t take over until the beginning of January.
Biden supports Respect for Marriage Act, Republican base opposes
The White House has enthusiastically endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, and the bill is set to be Joe Biden’s first major legislative victory on LGBT issues.
“The Respect for Marriage Act protects all couples under law – I urge Congress to send the bill to my desk so I can make it law,” Biden said Wednesday.
Like Biden, many of the Senate Republicans who voted to advance the bill previously upheld traditional marriage, including Sen. Portman, who changed his stance in 2013 after his son revealed himself to be homosexual.
“Current federal law doesn’t reflect the will or beliefs of the American people,” said Portman ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “It’s time for the Senate to settle the issue.”
Recent polling, however, shows that codifying same-sex “marriage” into federal law does not have the broad majority backing that supporters often claim, and that nearly 60 percent of Republican voters oppose it, compared to just 30 percent who favor it.
Sen. Portman co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act along with Sen. Collins and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is a lesbian. Portman, Collins, and Baldwin formed a bipartisan coalition of senators, along with Sen. Tillis and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a bisexual, who helped push it through the Senate.
Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the House in July after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, citing a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas in which he stated that the court should also revisit Obergefell.
Though Democrats initially intended the bill as a messaging stunt to smear Republicans as “extremists” before the midterms, its unexpectedly strong support among Republicans in the House prompted Senate Democrats to take up the legislation.
The Senate planned to hold a vote on the measure in September, but Democrats ultimately decided to wait until after the midterms in a bid to ease political pressure on Republicans – a move that appears to have paid off.
Three of the GOP senators who voted for the Respect for Marriage Act will retire in January: Sens. Blunt, Burr, and Portman. Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), who won Burr’s Senate seat last week, voted against the bill in the House. Republican Senator-elect J.D. Vance, who will replace Portman in Ohio, also voiced opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act on the campaign trail.