Equality: Freedom to marry
Outside the U.S. Supreme Court the morning before oral arguments in U.S. vs. Windsor. (Photo: Rich Renomeron)

A bill that would final­ly repeal the so-called “Defense of Mar­riage” Act has mirac­u­lous­ly made it out of the Unit­ed States Sen­ate and will soon be land­ing on Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law fol­low­ing a bipar­ti­san vote on final pas­sage that came less than a month after Elec­tion Day.

The bill has a long his­to­ry, as its Wikipedia entry notes:

Its first ver­sion in 2009 was sup­port­ed by for­mer Repub­li­can U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bob Barr, the orig­i­nal spon­sor of DOMA, and for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, who signed DOMA in 1996. The admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma also sup­port­ed RFMA. Hav­ing been intro­duced in sev­er­al pre­vi­ous Con­gress­es, anoth­er iter­a­tion of the pro­pos­al was put forth in the 114th Con­gress in both the House and the Sen­ate in Jan­u­ary 2015.

The cur­rent ver­sion of the Respect for Mar­riage Act is H.R. 8404. It passed the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives back in the sum­mer, but like many bills approved by the House, it has been held up in the Senate.

Not any­more, thankfully.

The roll call on final pas­sage of H.R. 8404 from the Pacif­ic North­west mir­rored the roll call on invok­ing clo­ture from ear­li­er this month:

Vot­ing Yea to Cod­i­fy Mar­riage Equal­i­ty: Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Lisa Murkows­ki and Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

Vot­ing Nay Against Mar­riage Equal­i­ty: Sen­a­tors Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Steve Daines (MT)

A total of 61 sen­a­tors vot­ed yea and 36 vot­ed nay. 3 did not vote.

The twelve Repub­li­cans vot­ing yea were:

  • Roy Blunt of Missouri
  • Richard Burr of North Carolina
  • Shelly Moore Capi­to of West Virginia
  • Susan Collins of Maine
  • Joni Ernst of Iowa
  • Cyn­thia Lum­mis of Wyoming
  • Lisa Murkows­ki of Alaska
  • Rob Port­man of Ohio
  • Mitt Rom­ney of Utah
  • Dan Sul­li­van of Alaska
  • Thom Tillis of North Carolina
  • Todd Young of Indiana

Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Ben Sasse of Nebras­ka and Pat Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia missed the vote, as did Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Raphael Warnock of Geor­gia, who is home cam­paign­ing ahead of the Decem­ber 6th runoff.

All present Demo­c­ra­t­ic and inde­pen­dent sen­a­tors vot­ed yea.

“With today’s bipar­ti­san Sen­ate pas­sage of the Respect for Mar­riage Act, the Unit­ed States is on the brink of reaf­firm­ing a fun­da­men­tal truth: love is love, and Amer­i­cans should have the right to mar­ry the per­son they love,” said Pres­i­dent Joe Biden in a cel­e­bra­to­ry state­ment pro­vid­ed by the White House.

“For mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, this leg­is­la­tion will safe­guard the rights and pro­tec­tions to which LGBTQI+ and inter­ra­cial cou­ples and their chil­dren are enti­tled. It will also ensure that, for gen­er­a­tions to fol­low, LGBTQI+ youth will grow up know­ing that they, too, can lead full, hap­py lives and build fam­i­lies of their own.”

“Impor­tant­ly, the Senate’s pas­sage of the Respect for Mar­riage Act is a bipar­ti­san achieve­ment. I’m grate­ful to the deter­mined Mem­bers of Con­gress — espe­cial­ly Sen­a­tors Bald­win, Collins, Port­man, Sine­ma, Tillis, and Fein­stein — whose lead­er­ship has under­scored that Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats togeth­er sup­port the essen­tial right of LGBTQI+ and inter­ra­cial cou­ples to mar­ry. I look for­ward to wel­com­ing them at the White House after the House pass­es this leg­is­la­tion and sends it to my desk, where I will prompt­ly and proud­ly sign it into law.”

“Today, thanks to the hard work of Major­i­ty Leader Schumer, Speak­er Pelosi, and bipar­ti­san col­leagues, the Respect for Mar­riage Act is final­ly on its way to becom­ing law,” said Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Harris.

“I had the hon­or to per­form some of our nation’s first same sex mar­riages at San Fran­cis­co City Hall in 2004, where cou­ples cel­e­brat­ed not only a joy­ful union, but the pro­tec­tion and respect of fun­da­men­tal human rights.”

“The right to start a fam­i­ly and raise chil­dren. The right to be who you are, open­ly and proud­ly. The right to sup­port the per­son you love, whether at a hos­pi­tal bed­side, a mil­i­tary deploy­ment cer­e­mo­ny, or apply­ing for citizenship.”

“Our Admin­is­tra­tion stands for the fun­da­men­tal right to mar­ry the per­son you love and live free from dis­crim­i­na­tion. The Respect for Mar­riage Act ulti­mate­ly stands for a sim­ple prin­ci­ple: all Amer­i­cans are equal and their gov­ern­ment should treat them that way. Today, we are one step clos­er to achiev­ing that ide­al with pride.”

“By pass­ing the Respect for Mar­riage Act, the Sen­ate has reaf­firmed the right for all Amer­i­cans to mar­ry the per­son they love,” said Ore­gon’s senior U.S. Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden. “At the heart of mar­riage equal­i­ty is the fun­da­men­tal right to pri­va­cy. It’s why I ran in sup­port of same-sex mar­riage dur­ing my 1996 Sen­ate cam­paign, and after becom­ing the first mem­ber of the Sen­ate to open­ly sup­port mar­riage equal­i­ty, it’s why I vot­ed against the cru­el and egre­gious Defense of Mar­riage Act.”

“While mar­riage equal­i­ty is the law of the land thanks to land­mark Supreme Court cas­es like Oberge­fell and Lov­ing v. Vir­gi­nia, Con­gress can­not take any mod­ern legal prece­dent for grant­ed after the over­turn­ing of Roe.”

“It has an oblig­a­tion to pro­tect the indi­vid­ual rights of all Amer­i­cans from a far-right Supreme Court major­i­ty deter­mined to turn the clock back by decades. And today Con­gress is one step clos­er to cod­i­fy­ing these rights into law.”

“Today’s vote is espe­cial­ly impor­tant with the fright­en­ing rise of hate speech and vio­lence against LGBTQ Amer­i­cans. There is no place for hate or intol­er­ance in Amer­i­ca. I stand with the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty, and I’m proud to once again vote for equal­i­ty and freedom.”

“There should be no doubt that every­one should have their mar­riages rec­og­nized, but after Roe v. Wade was over­turned, I heard from con­stituents across Wash­ing­ton state who were wor­ried that far-right Supreme Court Jus­tices would rip away their right to mar­ry who they love,” said Wash­ing­ton’s senior U.S. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray. “That’s why this leg­is­la­tion mat­ters and, today, we took a mean­ing­ful step towards pro­tect­ing same-sex mar­riage at the fed­er­al level.”

“This fight is not over, though. Whether it is defend­ing the right to same-sex mar­riage for all, push­ing for same-sex vet­er­an cou­ples to have full access to spousal ben­e­fits, or fight­ing to pro­tect all LGBTQ+ indi­vid­u­als from being fired just for who they love or how they iden­ti­fy — I will con­tin­ue to work to make equal­i­ty a real­i­ty. I am proud to be an advo­cate for Wash­ing­ton state’s LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate and look for­ward to Pres­i­dent Biden sign­ing this impor­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion into law.”

“Nobody should face the gut-wrench­ing pit in their stom­ach with the pos­si­bil­i­ty that some polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed Supreme Court jus­tices might sud­den­ly tell them that their mar­riage is no longer rec­og­nized,” said Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

“But the right-wing activist jus­tices have made clear they are eager to inject their pref­er­ences into the most inti­mate parts of our lives and have specif­i­cal­ly threat­ened Amer­i­cans’ marriages.”

“So bipar­ti­san majori­ties in Con­gress are step­ping in. Gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans have marched, vot­ed, orga­nized, and raised their voic­es to move us clos­er to a more per­fect union with free­dom and equal­i­ty for all.”

“My col­leagues and I – on both sides of the aisle – have the respon­si­bil­i­ty to not just fur­ther leg­is­la­tion to ensure this real­i­ty for all Amer­i­cans, but to do all we can to pro­tect the exist­ing rights that so many Amer­i­cans rely on. The right to mar­ry the per­son you love, regard­less of gen­der or race, should not be up for debate.”

“Ore­gon pro­tects mar­riage equal­i­ty for those who call this great state home, and with the pas­sage of the Respect for Mar­riage Act, these rights will now be pro­tect­ed for all Amer­i­cans in every cor­ner of every state of our coun­try. Pro­tect­ing same-sex and inter­ra­cial mar­riage means the right to love and mar­ry whomev­er you choose will be pro­tect­ed regard­less of the whims of an extrem­ist Supreme Court.”

“While our work here in D.C. is not over, and we need to pass the Equal­i­ty Act and end all forms of anti-LGBTQ+ dis­crim­i­na­tion, let us not miss this oppor­tu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate. Love wins!”

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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