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Same-Sex Marriage Bill Wins Sen Passage11/30 06:28

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate passed bipartisan legislation Tuesday to 
protect same-sex marriages, an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics 
on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex 
couples who have married since the Supreme Court's 2015 decision that legalized 
gay marriage nationwide.

   The bill, which would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are 
enshrined in federal law, was approved 61-36 on Tuesday, including support from 
12 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation was 
"a long time coming" and part of America's "difficult but inexorable march 
towards greater equality."

   Democrats are moving quickly, while the party still holds the majority in 
both chambers of Congress. The legislation now moves to the House for a final 
vote.

   President Joe Biden praised the bipartisan vote and said he will sign the 
bill "promptly and proudly" if it is passed by the House. He said it will 
ensure that LGBTQ youth "will grow up knowing that they, too, can lead full, 
happy lives and build families of their own."

   The bill has gained steady momentum since the Supreme Court's June decision 
that overturned the federal right to an abortion, a ruling that included a 
concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex 
marriage could also come under threat. Bipartisan Senate negotiations got a 
kick-start this summer when 47 Republicans unexpectedly voted for a House bill 
and gave supporters new optimism.

   The legislation would not force any state to allow same-sex couples to 
marry. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal 
where they were performed, and protect current same-sex unions, if the court's 
2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision were to be overturned. It's a stunning 
bipartisan endorsement, and evidence of societal change, after years of bitter 
divisiveness on the issue.

   A new law protecting same-sex marriages would also be a major victory for 
Democrats as they relinquish their two years of consolidated power in 
Washington, and a massive win for advocates who have been pushing for decades 
for federal legislation. It comes as the LGBTQ community has faced violent 
attacks, such as the shooting last weekend at a gay nightclub in Colorado that 
killed five people and injured at least 17.

   "Our community really needs a win, we have been through a lot," said Kelley 
Robinson, the incoming president of Human Rights Campaign, which advocates on 
LGBTQ issues. "As a queer person who is married, I feel a sense of relief right 
now. I know my family is safe."

   Robinson was in the Senate chamber for the vote with her wife, Becky, and 
toddler son. "It was more emotional than I expected," she said.

   The vote was personal for many senators, too. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, 
a Democrat who is the first openly gay senator and was the lead sponsor of the 
bill, tearfully hugged Schumer and others as the final vote was called. 
Baldwin, who has been working on gay rights issues for almost four decades, 
tweeted thanks to the same-sex and interracial couples who she said made the 
moment possible.

   "By living as your true selves, you changed the hearts and minds of people 
around you," she wrote.

   Schumer said on Tuesday that he was wearing the tie he wore at his 
daughter's wedding, "one of the happiest moments of my life." He also recalled 
the "harrowing conversation" he had with his daughter and her wife in September 
2020 when they heard that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. 
"Could our right to marry be undone?" they asked at the time.

   With conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ginsburg, the court 
has now overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal right to an abortion, stoking 
fears about Obergefell and other rights protected by the court. But sentiment 
has shifted on same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds of the public now 
in support.

   Still, Schumer said it was notable that the Senate was even having the 
debate after years of Republican opposition. "A decade ago, it would have 
strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about 
protecting the rights of same-sex married couples," he said.

   Passage came after the Senate rejected three Republican amendments to 
protect the rights of religious institutions and others to still oppose such 
marriages. Supporters of the legislation argued those amendments were 
unnecessary because the bill had already been amended to clarify that it does 
not affect rights of private individuals or businesses that are currently 
enshrined in law. The bill would also make clear that a marriage is between two 
people, an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation 
could endorse polygamy.

   Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has been lobbying his 
fellow GOP senators to support the legislation for months, pointed to the 
number of religious groups supporting the bill, including The Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of those groups were part of negotiations on 
the bipartisan amendment.

   "They see this as a step forward for religious freedom," Tillis says.

   The nearly 17-million member, Utah-based faith said in a statement this 
month that church doctrine would continue to consider same-sex relationships to 
be against God's commandments.

   Most Republicans still oppose the legislation, saying it is unnecessary and 
citing concerns about religious liberty. And some conservative groups stepped 
up opposition in recent weeks, lobbying Republican supporters to switch their 
votes.

   "Marriage is the exclusive, lifelong, conjugal union between one man and one 
woman, and any departure from that design hurts the indispensable goal of 
having every child raised in a stable home by the mom and dad who conceived 
him," the Heritage Foundation's Roger Severino, vice president of domestic 
policy, wrote in a recent blog post arguing against the bill.

   In an effort to win the 10 Republican votes necessary to overcome a 
filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, Democrats delayed consideration until after the 
midterm elections, hoping that would relieve political pressure on GOP senators 
who might be wavering.

   Eventual support from 12 Republicans gave Democrats the votes they needed.

   Along with Tillis, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman 
supported the bill early on and have lobbied their GOP colleagues to support 
it. Also voting for the legislation were Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North 
Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mitt 
Romney of Utah, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Cynthia Lummis of 
Wyoming and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

   Just before passage, Collins thanked her fellow Republicans who supported 
it. "I know it has not been easy, but they have done the right thing," Collins 
said.

   Lummis, one of the more conservative members of the Senate, spoke ahead of 
the final vote about her "fairly brutal self soul searching" before supporting 
the bill. She said that she accepts her church's beliefs that a marriage is 
between a man and a woman, but noted that the country was founded on the 
separation of church and state.

   "We do well by taking this step, not embracing or validating each other's 
devoutly held views, but by the simple act of tolerating them," Lummis said.

   Baldwin said earlier this month that the newfound openness from many 
Republicans on the subject reminds her "of the arc of the LBGTQ movement to 
begin with, in the early days when people weren't out and people knew gay 
people by myths and stereotypes."

   "And slowly laws have followed," she said. "It is history."

 
 
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