US laws move closer to legalising same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON, 30 Nov 2022:

The US Senate yesterday passed landmark legislation that allows the federal government to recognise same-sex marriages after a not-so-frequent political bonhomie in the upper house, before the Republicans take it over next month.

The bill now goes to the US House of Representatives, expected to happen as early as next week before president Joe Biden signs it into law.

Biden said he looked forward to welcoming the bipartisan coalition, which helped pass the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate, for a signing-in ceremony at the White House after the lower house cleared the bill.

“The United States is on the brink of reaffirming a fundamental truth: love is love,” said Biden.

“Americans should have the right to marry the person they love. For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled.”

Biden said the legislation would ensure that, for generations to follow, LGBTQI+ youth would grow up “knowing that they, too, can lead full, happy lives, and build families of their own.”

He said he would “promptly and proudly sign it into law” after the House “sends it to my desk.”

The bill garnered 61 votes in favour and 36 against in the Senate.

The legislation encourages the federal government to recognise marriage between two people of the same sex if it is legal in the state where they were married.

The same principle applies to interracial weddings.

The legislation also recognises religious freedom.

But it guarantees that religious institutions and organisations would not be required to provide goods or services to celebrate a marriage.

Such institutions could not lose tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognise same-sex unions.

The House of Representatives, with a progressive majority, endorsed the bill in July with 267 votes in favour and 157 against it.

In the Senate, the slim Democratic majority needed the support of at least 10 Republicans to pull it off.

The draft goes back to the lower house, which must approve the new version that has come out of the Senate.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the US since June 2015, when the Supreme Court declared laws that prohibited it unconstitutional in some states.

The push to clear the same-sex marriage bill gained momentum after the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion.

Conservative justice Clarence Thomas then hinted that other privacy-based rights, including marriage equality and access to contraception, could be reconsidered next.

The bill would require states to recognise all marriages that were legal when performed, including in other states, regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”