House passes bill protecting marriage equality, with 47 GOP members voting 'yes'
(The Hill) – The House passed a bill on Tuesday to protect marriage equality, a direct response to an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last month that called for reversing multiple decisions that enshrined LGBTQ rights.
The legislation, titled the Respect for Marriage Act, passed in a 267-157 vote, with 47 Republicans joining all Democrats present in supporting the measure. Seven Republicans did not vote.
The measure, which faces a shaky future in the 50-50 Senate, calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a bill former President Clinton signed into law in 1996 that recognized marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The measure referred to the word spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”
DOMA had passed through both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support.
If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act would also require that individuals are considered married if they were wed in a state where marriage was legal. The provision, according to the House Judiciary Committee, ensures that same-sex and interracial couples are treated equally to other married individuals on the federal level.
Additionally, the bill gives the attorney general authority to launch civil action against any individuals who violate it and allows any individuals to take civil action if their rights as laid out in the bill are breached.
House passage of the bill comes less than one month after the Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that protected access to abortion as a constitutional right.
Thomas penned a concurring opinion to the decision that called on the court to reconsider all substantive due process precedents established by the bench, including Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case that barred states from outlawing consensual gay sex, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 ruling that made same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
In the majority opinion, however, Justice Samuel Alito said that by striking down Roe, the bench was not calling for reversing other rulings.
House Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act and brought it to the floor for a vote as a preemptive step to protect LGBTQ+ rights in case the court moves to chip away at the two cases in the future.
Last week, the House cleared two bills to protect access to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.