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Same-sex marriage protection bill clears key hurdle in Senate

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Tammy Baldwin at a press conference.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

The Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to codify protections for same-sex and interracial marriage, on Wednesday cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Senate after garnering enough support from Senate Republicans.

Why it matters: A motion to proceed to debate on the bill passed 62-37, more than the 60 votes needed to break a Senate filibuster, signaling the legislation has the support to pass the chamber.

What caught our eye: A dozen Senate Republicans voted with all Democrats to pass the bill.

  • Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) were involved in the effort to whip GOP votes for the bill and were expected to vote for it.
  • The others who voted for it were Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
  • The bill was notably supported by the Mormon church.

What’s next: If the amended bill passes the Senate, it will go back to the House for another vote. If it clears both chambers, it will head to President Biden’s desk.

  • Key House Democrats, including LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), have told Axios the changes likely won’t keep the House from passing the bill again.

The backdrop: The bill was introduced in July after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ signaled in a concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson that rulings such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, could be under threat.

  • It passed the House later that month with the support of nearly 50 Republicans.
  • In the Senate, the bill’s progress slowed as Republican senators demanded changes to clarify it wouldn’t infringe on religious liberty.
  • It was eventually punted until after the Nov. 8 midterm election, with both aides in both parties telling Axios that was the best way to garner GOP votes. On Monday, the bipartisan group of senators working on the bill announced an agreement on changes.

What they’re saying: “Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” President Biden said in a statement following the vote. 

  • Biden urged Congress to “quickly” send the bill to his desk and said he’d sign it into law.

This story has been updated with additional details.