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Senate Votes on Same-Sex Marriage Bill 11/29 06:04

   The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on legislation to protect same-sex and 
interracial marriages, putting Congress one step closer to passing the landmark 
bill and ensuring that such unions are enshrined in federal law.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on legislation to 
protect same-sex and interracial marriages, putting Congress one step closer to 
passing the landmark bill and ensuring that such unions are enshrined in 
federal law.

   Senate Democrats are moving quickly, while the party still holds the 
majority in both chambers of Congress, to pass the bill requiring that such 
unions are legally recognized nationwide. The House would still have to vote on 
the legislation and send it to President Joe Biden's desk.

   The bill has gained steady momentum since the Supreme Court's June decision 
that overturned the federal right to an abortion, and comments from Justice 
Clarence Thomas at the time that suggested same-sex marriage could also come 
under threat. Bipartisan Senate negotiations kick-started this summer after 47 
Republicans unexpectedly voted for a House bill and gave supporters new 
optimism.

   The legislation would not codify the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. 
Hodges decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide or force any state to 
allow same-sex couples to marry. But it would require states to recognize all 
marriages that were legal where they were performed, and protect current 
same-sex unions. It would also protect interracial marriages by requiring 
states to recognize legal marriages regardless of "sex, race, ethnicity, or 
national origin."

   "The rights of all married couples will never truly be safe without the 
proper protections under federal law, and that's why the Respect for Marriage 
Act is necessary," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate 
floor ahead of a test vote Monday.

   Passage of the legislation would be a major victory for Democrats as they 
usher out their two years of consolidated power in Washington, and a massive 
win for advocates who have been pushing for decades for federal legislation 
legalizing same sex marriages.

   Schumer said it is notable that the Senate is even having the debate. "A 
decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both 
sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples," he said.

   A test vote Monday evening moved the legislation closer to passage, with 12 
Republicans who have previously supported the bill voting again to move it 
forward. Democrats set up a Tuesday afternoon vote after Republicans negotiated 
votes on three GOP amendments that would protect the rights of religious 
institutions and others to still oppose such marriages.

   Supporters of the legislation say those amendments are unnecessary because 
they are already amending the bill to clarify that it does not affect rights of 
private individuals or businesses that are currently enshrined in law. That 
amendment would also make clear that a marriage is between two people, an 
effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation could endorse 
polygamy.

   Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has been lobbying his 
fellow GOP senators to support the legislation for months, points to the number 
of religious groups who are supporting the bill, including the Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of those groups were part of negotiations on 
the bipartisan amendment.

   "They see this as a step forward for religious freedom," Tillis says.

   The nearly 17-million member, Utah-based faith said in a statement earlier 
this month that church doctrine would continue to consider same-sex 
relationships to be against God's commandments. Yet it said it would support 
rights for same-sex couples as long as they didn't infringe upon religious 
groups' right to believe as they choose.

   The support of some religious groups reflect the changing public sentiment 
on the issue -- recent polling has found more than two-thirds of the public 
supports same-sex unions. But Congress has been slower to act.

   Most Republicans still oppose the legislation, saying it is unnecessary and 
citing concerns about religious liberties. And some conservative groups stepped 
up opposition in recent weeks.

   "As I and others have argued for years, marriage is the exclusive, lifelong, 
conjugal union between one man and one woman, and any departure from that 
design hurts the indispensable goal of having every child raised in a stable 
home by the mom and dad who conceived him," the Heritage Foundation's Roger 
Severino, vice president of domestic policy, wrote in a recent blog post 
arguing against the bill.

   In an effort to win the 10 Republican votes necessary to overcome a 
filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, Democrats delayed consideration until after the 
midterm elections, hoping that would relieve political pressure on some GOP 
senators who might be wavering.

   The delay appeared to work, and eventual support from twelve Republicans 
gave Democrats the votes they needed.

   Along with Tillis, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman 
supported the bill early on and lobbied their GOP colleagues to support it. 
Also voting for the legislation in two test votes were Republican Sens. Richard 
Burr of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West 
Virginia, Mitt Romney of Utah, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roy Blunt of Missouri, 
Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

   The growing GOP support for the issue is a sharp contrast from even a decade 
ago, when many Republicans vocally opposed same-sex marriages.

   Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who is the first openly gay senator 
and has been working on gay rights issues for almost four decades, said earlier 
this month that the newfound openness from many Republicans on the subject 
reminds her "of the arc of the LBGTQ movement to begin with, in the early days 
when people weren't out and people knew gay people by myths and stereotypes."

   Baldwin, the lead Senate negotiator on the legislation, said that as more 
individuals and families have become visible, hearts and minds have changed.

   "And slowly laws have followed," she said. "It is history."

 
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