Senate Passes Law Protecting Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages

US Capitol

( – With most Republicans voting against and social conservatives angered by the outcome, the US Senate passed the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act,” which provides federal protection to same-sex and interracial marriages, with the support of 12 Republican senators.

The bill, which is yet to be voted upon in the House of Representatives, also contains an amendment supposed to simultaneously religious freedom and the rights of religious organizations opposing gay marriage – but critics say its guarantees are inadequate and insufficient.

Sixty-one US senators voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday, while 36 voted against it, all Republicans, Fox News reported.

The twelve GOP senators who sided with the Democrats are the same who supported the bill earlier this month so it could pass the 60-vote filibuster threshold: Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst, Cynthia Lummis, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Dan Sullivan, Thom Tillis, and Todd Young.

Under the draft law, states would be obliged to recognize gay marriages performed in other states as per the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution.

“By passing this bill, the Senate’s sending a message to every American … no matter who you are or who you love, you, too, deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated on the Senate floor.

He praised “the teams of Senators Baldwin, Sinema, Collins, Tillis and Portman” for conducting the bipartisan negotiations to pass the gay marriage bill.

Under the amendment, which was adopted Monday and negotiated by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Respect for Marriage Act would not “undermine religious liberty” and wouldn’t require religious nonprofits “to provide services” to marriages they oppose. The senators rejected three other draft amendments with stronger religious protections.

The Collins-Baldwin amendment says the law may not be used to “diminish or abrogate a religious liberty or conscience protection otherwise available to an individual or organization under the Constitution of the United States or Federal law.”

“They acknowledge that the threats to religious liberty are real. By saying we’re not going to take away religious freedom protections, that does nothing,” reacted Roger Severino, domestic policy vice president of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Severino told The Daily Caller the amendment wouldn’t stop government bodies from revoking religious nonprofit’s tax-exempt status.

“Giving it the most generous interpretation, it’s not enough. It doesn’t provide the defenses needed. This bill will set a chain of events in motion, and this construction won’t stop it. Unless there’s an affirmative defense, it will not prevent the IRS or DOJ from taking away tax-exempt status,” he elaborated.

He added one of the failed amendments – projected by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and rejected 48-49 – was better because it banned the federal government from “tak[ing] any discriminatory action” based on the law.

Lee had warned that without stronger protections, “many religious schools, faith-based organizations, and other non-profit entities adhering to traditional views,” and “small businesses would … be affected.”

He said the RFMA would worsen existing “discriminatory policies… where religious adoption agencies are essentially shut down unless they recognize same-sex marriage.”

The Respect for Marriage Act bill is now going to the US House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass, again with some Republican votes.

In July, the House approved an earlier bill draft with 47 Republicans and all 220 Democrats in favor.