The House just passed a bill to protect same-sex marriage

Nearly 50 Republicans supported the measure too — though it looks to be a very different picture in the Senate.

Thousands of same-sex marriage supporters rally outside the state Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on ...
San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Hearst Newspapers/Getty Images

One month after the Supreme Court ruled against bodily autonomy by rolling back the federal right to reproductive health care, the Democratic-led House of Representatives on Tuesday preemptively passed a new bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriages from a seemingly increasingly likely Republican effort to roll back yet another suite of civil rights.

House Resolution 8404, the “Respect for Marriage Act” was approved by a vote of 267-157, with 47 Republicans crossing the aisle to help pass the bill, per Bloomberg. Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler (D), the bill’s co-sponsor, was explicit about why he had introduced the measure now, in the wake of the Court’s anti-abortion ruling.

“The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health — which extinguished the constitutional right to abortion — has raised concerns among some people that other rights rooted in the constitutional right to privacy may be at risk, notwithstanding the Court’s assurance that Dobbs was limited to abortion,” Nadler explained. “This includes the right to marriage equality.”

He continued (emphasis mine):

In fact, in a concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly called on the Court to reconsider its decisions protecting other fundamental rights, including the right to same-sex marriage. And, although Justice Thomas did not mention the right to interracial marriage, that right relies on the same constitutional doctrines as the right to same-sex marriage and, therefore, it could be vulnerable to a legal challenge in the future as well.
Even if we accept the Court’s assurance in Dobbs that its decision does not call other rights into question, Congress should provide additional reassurance that marriage equality is a matter of settled law. All married people who are building their lives together must know that that the government will respect and recognize their marriages — for all time.

Defectors notwithstanding, the still-overwhelming opposition to the bill from the majority of House Republicans is a sign of just how far the measure still has to go before it becomes law. That’s because it now moves to the Senate, where it will require a fifth of the GOP caucus (10 votes) to clear the 60-vote hurdle to passage. But there are signs that some Republicans may at least be open to backing the bill — or at least, not rejecting it out of hand.

“I would like to see it on the floor,” perennially disappointed Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) told Politico on Wednesday. “I don’t think it needs to be done this work period. There is no pending immediate case that’s going to be decided before the end of the year. So we have some time.”

“I do think codifying is a good idea,” she added.

Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio) are also reportedly signaling support for the still-forthcoming Senate version of the bill, while a predictable bloc of conservatives — among them Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who recently seemed to encourage the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide — are lining up to oppose the measure.

For now, the question is if Democrats choose to bring the bill forward in the Senate, will they do so before or after shoring up Republican support? As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday morning: “I want to bring this bill to the floor, and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.”