A bipartisan group of U.S. senators passed a major hurdle in the quest to enshrine same-sex marriage under federal law Wednesday afternoon.
The Respect for Marriage Act, with a bipartisan vote of 62-37, was tasked with clearing the senatorial procedural hurdle of cloture. Cloture, the procedure to end debate to allow for voting, requires a minimum of 60 out of 100 possible votes. Twelve Republicans joined unanimous Senate Democrats in voting for the cloture on the bill.
The bill has faced GOP opposition dating back to its first vote on the House floor in July, where 47 Republicans joined all 220 Democratic representatives in a vote that passed the House. 157 Republicans voted against the bill, leading to a struggle to pass the bill in the Senate. Without the 10 GOP senator support necessary to pass a legislation-stopping filibuster, the bill was likely to fail.
In September, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to postpone the vote until after the midterms due to suspected reasoning that the vote would hurt GOP candidate election results with socially-conservative voters.
The bill, which was introduced after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — along with Justice Thomas’ support for overturning the landmark case that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage — was spearheaded by a group of five senators — Sen. Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sen. Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sen. Collins (R-Mass.), Sen. Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Tillis (R-N.C.).
The bill is intended to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a law declaring that no state must honor a same-sex marriage.
Recently included in the bill is an amendment exempting tax-exempt religious organizations from providing services to same-sex couples, along with not requiring states to permit same-sex marriages. However, the bill still requires states to recognize any marriage in a state that allows same-sex marriages.
These concessions, intended to court GOP support, come after right-wing pressure to slim down the bill. The conservative-leaning Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now backing the amended bill.
According to a June Gallup poll, 71% of Americans now support same-sex marriage — a new high.
Democrats are hurrying to pass the bill in the “lame-duck” session of Congress for the next two months, after which Republicans are expected to take the House. The bill is expected to pass the Senate with a simple majority vote, where the revised bill will go on to a final vote by the currently-Democratic House.