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Senate Votes to Pass Respect for Marriage Act

AP Photo/Mark Tenally

On Tuesday night, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of passing the Respect for Marriage Act by a vote of 61-36, just barely earning the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The legislation, which codifies same-sex marriage, passed with support from 12 Republicans. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) missed the vote. 


Despite the bipartisan nature of the bill in both chambers, there were also those who have raised concerns, particularly when it comes to how religious organizations would be affected by this bill should it be signed into law by President Joe Biden, as is expected to be the case/ 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who did not vote in favor of the bill, had offered an amendment that would protect religious institutions. "Religious organizations, including orphanages, women’s shelters, and schools, would likely be subject to crippling lawsuits if the so-called Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) becomes law," a press release from his office warned. 

"The intentionally vague phrasing makes the provision ripe for abuse. To protect faith-based organizations, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) filed an amendment to strike the private right of action. Led by Democrats, the Senate rejected that amendment," the press release also mentioned. 

"Although the bill would protect nonprofits whose 'principal purpose' is the 'study, practice, or advancement of religion,'  it would not protect other faith-based organizations. As a result, an orphanage run by nuns who do not want to place children with same-sex couples could be sued in federal court by any individual. The same is true for other faith-based entities acting 'under color of state law,' another intentionally vague and ambiguous term," the press release pointed out as well.


Democrats voted against the amendment, just as they did with similar amendments from Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and James Lankford (R-OK). Just as Rubio voted against the bill, so did Lee and Lankford. 

One of the chief opponents of the bill has been Heritage Action, which promoted the amendments and also tweeted out an explainer of why they took issue with the bill as it stands without those amendments. 

The House passed the legislation in July, with this version of the bill heading back to that body before it heads to the president's desk.

The bill was quickly put together and voted on in the House in the unlikely event that the U.S. Supreme Court were to ever overturn same-sex marriage, let alone take up a case considering doing so. While the Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a protected right under the 14th Amendment in the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, Democrats still felt strongly enough to draw up such legislation based on a solo concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, officially handed down in late June, in which he discussed the Court examining other rights, such as same-sex marriage and contraception. 


It's worth emphasizing, as Guy has pointed out before, that the opinion of the Court, from Justice Samuel Alito, as well as a concurring opinion from Justice Brett Kavanaugh emphasized that the Dobbs case, which overturned Roe v. Wade, applied only to abortion. 

Many trends are appearing on Twitter as a result of the bill's passage, including "12 Republicans," "Obergell," and "Respect for Marriage Act."

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