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Bill Protecting Same-Sex, Interracial Unions Clears Congress

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In this image from House Television, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announces the final passage of the bill with same-sex marriage protections, in the House Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. The bipartisan legislation, passed 258-169, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House gave final approval Thursday to legislation protecting same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decade-long battle for nationwide recognition of such unions that reflects an extraordinary turnaround in the attitudes of society.

President Joe Biden is expected to swiftly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages, a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who wed after the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing those weddings nationwide.

The bipartisan legislation, passed 258 to 169 by nearly 40 Republican votes, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” After months of talks, the Senate passed the bill last week by 12 Republican votes.

In the debate before the vote, several gay members of Congress talked about what it would mean for them and their families. Rep. Chris Pappas, DN.H., said he was marrying “the love of my life” next year and that it was “unthinkable” that her marriage would go unrecognized in some states.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said he and his husband should be able to visit each other in the hospital just like any other married couple and receive spousal benefits “regardless of spouse’s name Samuel or Samantha.”

Rep. David Cicilline, DR.I., said the idea of ​​marriage equality was “a far-fetched idea, now it’s the law of the land and supported by the vast majority of Americans.”

Democrats quickly moved the bill through the House and Senate after the Supreme Court’s decision in June that struck down federal abortion rights. That ruling included a concurring opinion from Judge Clarence Thomas that same-sex marriage should also be reconsidered.

The legislation has lost some Republican support since July, when 47 Republicans voted for it, a solid and unexpected show of support that kickstarted serious negotiations in the Senate. But most of those lawmakers held out.

“To me that’s really just in line with the Constitution,” said Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri, who voted for it both times. She rejected the GOP’s arguments that it would affect the religious rights of those who don’t believe in same-sex marriage.

“Nobody’s religious freedoms are compromised in any way, shape or form,” Wagner said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., presided over the vote as one of her latest acts of leadership before stepping aside in January. She said the legislation “will ensure that ‘the federal government will never again stand in the way of getting married to the one you love.’

The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges now does. But it would require states to recognize all legal marriages where they occurred and would protect existing same-sex unions if Obergefell’s decision was overturned.

While not all supporters could have wished for, the passage of the legislation represents a watershed moment. Just a decade ago, many Republicans openly campaigned to block same-sex marriages; today more than two-thirds of the public supports them.

Still, most Republicans have opposed the legislation, and some conservative advocacy groups have lobbied aggressively against it in recent weeks, arguing it doesn’t do enough to protect those who want to refuse services for same-sex couples.

“God’s perfect design really is marriage between a man and a woman for life,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va, ahead of the vote. “And it doesn’t matter what you think or what I think, that’s what the Bible says.”

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., choked as she pleaded with colleagues to vote against the bill, which she says undermines “natural marriage” between a man and a woman.

“I’ll tell you my priorities,” Hartzler said. “Protect religious freedom, protect people of faith, and protect Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage.”

Democrats in the Senate, led by Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have sought to address these GOP concerns by negotiating an amendment that would clarify that the legislation does not affect individual or business rights that are already enshrined in the law. current law. The amended bill would also clarify that a marriage is between two people, an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation could support polygamy.

Eventually, several religious groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came out in support of the bill. The Mormon Church has said it will support the rights of same-sex couples as long as they don’t violate the right of religious groups to believe as they please.

Thursday’s vote came as the LGBTQ community faced violent attacks, such as the shooting earlier this month at a gay nightclub in Colorado that killed five people and injured at least 17.

“We’ve been through a lot,” said Kelley Robinson, incoming chair of human rights advocacy group Campaign. But Robinson says the votes show “so importantly” that the country values ​​LBGTQ people.

“We are part of the whole story of what it means to be an American,” said Robinson, who was inside the Senate floor for last week’s vote with his wife and son. “Really talk to them validating our love.”

The vote was also personal for many senators. On the day the bill passed their chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wore the tie he wore to his daughter’s wedding to another woman. He recalled that day as “one of the happiest moments of my life”.

Baldwin, the first openly gay senator who has worked on gay rights issues for nearly four decades, tearfully embraced Schumer as the final vote was in progress. He tweeted thanks to the same-sex and interracial couples who she says made the moment possible.

“By living as yourself, you have changed the hearts and minds of the people around you,” she wrote.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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