US House passes bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriages


The US House of Representatives has signed off on legislation protecting the rights of same-sex and interracial couples to marry, sending the bill to president Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The House, which is controlled by Democrats but will change to Republican hands in the new year, voted 258-169 on Thursday to advance the Respect for Marriage Act. Thirty-nine House Republicans voted with all of the House Democrats to approve the measure, while the bulk of House Republicans voted against it.

The vote in the lower chamber came after the bill passed the Senate, the upper chamber of Congress, last month. At the time, Biden celebrated the move, saying: “Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.”

Democratic lawmakers led the push for the legislation after the US Supreme Court decided in June to overturn Roe vs Wade, which established the right to an abortion. The move raised fears that America’s highest court might strike down other precedents, after Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court revisit other landmark rulings — including Obergefell vs Hodges, the 2015 case recognising same-sex marriage, and Loving vs Virginia, the 1967 decision that rejected state laws outlawing interracial marriages.

The legislation passed by Congress would pre-empt any such decision by requiring the federal government to recognise marriages “regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin”.

The latest Gallup polling found that a record high 71 per cent of Americans support same-sex marriages, compared to just 27 per cent when Gallup first began asking the question in 1996. As vice-president under Barack Obama, Biden was instrumental in pushing the then president to change his public position on the issue.

The Respect for Marriage Act marks a rare example of bipartisanship in a fiercely divided Washington. Twelve Republican senators voted in favour of the measure in the Senate, allowing it to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Republicans who remain opposed to the legislation have in some cases cited religious concerns. Others have said the bill is not necessary. Jim Jordan, the Republican House member from Ohio who is in line to chair the powerful House judiciary committee, said on Wednesday that Democrats had “conjured up . . . unfounded fear” about the Supreme Court.


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