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House passes Respect for Marriage Act same-sex marriage bill

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signs ‘The Respect for Marriage Act’ alongside other members of Congress during a registration ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, USA States, December 8, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed a landmark bill enshrining federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage, sending it to President Joe Biden, who said he was eager to sign it.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed the Democratic-led House in a 258-169-1 vote, as 39 Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting it. He also won bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled Senate in late November: 12 GOP senators crossed party lines to vote for the legislation.

Over the summer, an earlier version of the bill won the support of 47 Republicans in the House. The version passed Thursday contained an amendment offering additional protections for religious freedom and faith-based nonprofits, which Republicans had backed.

The bill gained traction after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion to the court’s decision to strike down federal abortion rights this summer, raised the possibility that the court would remove other rights, including same-sex marriage and contraception. Proponents had pushed Congress to enshrine these rights in law.

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The bill also represents a personal victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco congressional district was the birthplace of the LGBTQ rights movement. She chaired the debate and vote on Thursday.

In an op-ed Wednesday in The Washington Post, Pelosi said the Respect for Marriage Act was a fitting way for her to end her historic presidency.

“Just as I began my career fighting for LGBTQ communities, I’m thrilled that one of the last bills I’ll be signing as a speaker is the Respecting Marriage Act: Ensuring the federal government will never again object to marrying the person you love,” Pelosi wrote.

The Respect for Marriage Act formally repeals the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. This bill denied same-sex couples federal benefits and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Supreme Court went on to strike down key provisions of DOMA in two landmark decisions, United States v Windsor and Obergefell v Hodges in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

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