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Bill to protect same-sex marriage moves closer to passage in U.S. Senate

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The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on a bill to provide federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages Tuesday after overcoming a filibuster on Monday. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on a bill to provide federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages Tuesday after overcoming a filibuster on Monday. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Legislation that would provide federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages along with religious liberties moved closer to passage in the Senate after lawmakers overcame a filibuster on the way to a final vote, which could happen as soon as Tuesday.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which has already passed in the U.S. House, advanced in the Senate on Monday after a 61-35 vote rejecting a Republican effort to indefinitely block the measure.

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Just 60 votes were needed to quash the debate after Senators haggled for nearly 3 hours on whether to bring additional amendments to the table. Notably, the filibuster vote cleared the 60-vote threshold with the help of all 12 Republicans who voted in favor of a broader version of the bill earlier in the month.

Lawmakers agreed to begin voting around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday on three separate amendments proposed by Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, and James Lankford of Oklahoma.

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After that, a final vote will be taken.

The amendments call for additional protections for religious freedoms after some Republicans expressed concern that other tweaks to the bill didn't go far enough.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, of North Carolina, a major sponsor of the bill, acknowledged that Lee's amendment was "far more expansive" than the current bill and indicated that he would be satisfied with or without it.

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"I wish we'd do more amendment votes around here," Tillis said. "It was an earnest effort on our part to let them have their amendments be heard and let the vote go where the vote goes ..."

Lee's amendment needs 60 votes to pass, while the lesser proposals by Lankford and Rubio only need the approval of a simple majority to make it on the bill.

The final bill will also include a provision that would ensure polygamous marriage remains outlawed in the United States.

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In July, the original bill sailed through the House with 47 Republicans on board.

In the Senate, the bill won support from Tillis as well as Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Richard Burr R-,N.C.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa and Todd Young, R-Ind.

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Many of the Republican supporters have been blasted in conservative circles for backing the legislation, with more than 40 Christian leaders calling on Lummis to "reverse course" unless the final version of the bill includes Lee's amendment.

If the Senate passes the legislation with the amendment, the measure would have to go back to the U.S. House for another vote.

Passing the measure without the amendment would send it directly to President Joe Biden's desk, where he is all but certain to sign the measure into law before Democrats lose control of the House in January.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, of New York, hailed the defeat of the filibuster on the Senate floor on Monday night and later on social media.

"We all know that for all the progress that we've made on same-sex marriage, the rights of all married couples will never truly be safe without the proper protections under federal law, and that's why the Respect for Marriage Act is necessary," he said.

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