The Senate is poised to pass legislation on Tuesday that would codify same-sex and interracial marriage rights, a historic victory for Democrats eager to secure the rights amid growing concerns that a conservative Supreme Court majority they can take away.
The bill is widely expected to pass after earning crucial support from 12 Republicans in a key test vote just before Thanksgiving, putting it on a slippery slope to President Joe Biden’s desk later this month.
Codifying same-sex marriage became a top priority for Democrats in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion nationwide.
In floor remarks Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer highlighted the historic nature of the bill, which he said ensures that the rights of LGBTQ people will not be “trampled.”
“In many ways, the story of America has been a difficult but inexorable march toward greater equality. Sometimes we have taken steps forward, other times we have unfortunately taken disturbing steps back, but today, after months of hard work, After many rounds of bipartisan conversations, and after much doubt that we could even reach this point, we are taking the important step forward for greater justice for LGBTQ Americans,” Schumer said.
Schumer and other Democrats argued that a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas in the June ruling, in which he said the court “must reconsider” granting a nationwide right to gay marriage, the rights of LGBTQ Americans doubt.
For Schumer, and other senators with loved ones who are part of the LGBTQ community, the matter is personal. Schumer’s daughter is married to her wife. He appeared on the Senate floor Tuesday wearing a tie he said he wore to his daughter’s wedding.
Schumer said that after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died two years ago, his daughter was worried that her marriage might be in danger. Now, two years later, and with the Senate poised to act, his daughter is expecting a child.
“I want them to raise their child with all the love and security that every child deserves,” Schumer said. “And the bill we are passing today will ensure that their rights will not be trampled simply because they are in a same-sex marriage.”
The Respect for Marriage Act would “require the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed,” according to a summary of the bill’s sponsors, including Congress’ first openly bisexual woman in the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., along with Susan Collins, R-Maine, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Thom Tillis, RN.C.
The bill would not require any state to issue a marriage license contrary to its laws, but would mandate that states recognize legally granted marriages performed in other states, including same-sex and interracial unions.
The legislation comes after months of behind-the-scenes coalition building between Democrats and a group of Republican negotiators. While it will have the GOP support to pass Tuesday, it is expected to be opposed by a large contingent of Republicans, some of whom have deemed it unnecessary.
“I think it’s very telling that Sen. Schumer is putting a bill on the floor to affirm what is already a constitutional right of same-sex marriage, which is not under any imminent threat, and continues to ignore national security and not the take up defense. authorization bill,” said Sen. Rep. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said earlier this month.
During the pre-Thanksgiving test vote, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted with the majority of his party to oppose the bill.
After the legislation’s expected Senate passage on Tuesday, it will have to be sent back to the House for final approval.
The House passed a similar version of this legislation earlier this year, with 47 Republicans supporting it. The Senate version includes new language to ease some GOP concerns about religious freedom. The House is expected to quickly pass it and send it to Biden’s desk.
ABC News’ Trish Turner contributed to this report