Senate Passes Bill to Protect Same-Sex And Interracial Marriage

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The bill would create federal protections for same-sex marriages while repealing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriage, called the Respect for Marriage Act, in a landmark bipartisan vote

Twelve Republicans voted for the legislation, which will head to U.S. President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law after final passage in the U.S. House.

“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.”

The legislation repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman under federal law. It would also require states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in other states, although it does not prevent states from passing laws banning those marriages.

"This legislation unites Americans," Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, one of the act's co-sponsors and the first openly gay woman elected to the U.S. Senate, said earlier when the bill passed a preliminary vote.

"With the Respect for Marriage Act, we can ease the fear that millions of same-sex and interracial couples have that their freedoms and their rights could be stripped away by passing this bill,” Baldwin said. “We are guaranteeing same-sex and interracial couples, regardless of where they live, that their marriage is legal, and that they will continue to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that all other marriages are afforded."

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage at the federal level in its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. But the court's Dobbs v. Jackson decision in June overturning a right to abortion at the federal level raised concerns about federal protections for other rights.