news u s senate votes to enact federal protections for same sex couples
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Bipartisan U.S. Senate votes to enact federal protections for same-sex couples

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The U.S. Senate, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, has advanced a repeal of a federal law that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed by a 61-36 vote on Tuesday, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to send the bill to the House, which had passed similar legislation earlier this year.

The Senate bill will extend federal protections for gay and interracial marriages, ensuring that those marriages are recognized by all 50 states.

“Marriage is not only a spiritual bond between two individuals, it’s also a binding contract that cements essential benefits, rights, and privileges. This bill will ensure that gay marriages are recognized across the country, thereby protecting same-sex couples from discrimination that would otherwise block their access to health care, paid family medical leave, hospital visitation, and parental rights — among many others. I was proud to vote for this piece of legislation and urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass it and send it to the President’s desk soon,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a statement after the Tuesday vote.

“I am deeply gratified by today’s passage of a bill protecting marriage equality in the United States,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said. “In 2006, over my objection, Virginia passed a referendum amending the state constitution to deny any recognition to same-sex relationships. One of my major priorities when I became a senator was making progress on marriage equality. When I became senator in 2013, I joined many Senate Democratic colleagues in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court arguing that marriage equality should be the law of the land. I was pleased with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling in June 2015 and assumed that marriage equality was now protected for all.”

The stakes on this issue were raised when Republicans won a slim majority in the U.S. House in this month’s midterms. The new Congress won’t be seated until January, giving Democrats a few weeks in the lame-duck session to address priorities.

And the protection of the rights of same-sex couples to marry and have their marriages recognized is a priority in the wake of the Trump Court rewriting the Constitution on a daily basis.

“The Supreme Court’s shocking decision in the Dobbs case demonstrates that no one can assume that the Court will simply protect the due process and equal protection rights granted by the 14th Amendment. In fact, as argued by Justice Thomas in his concurrence to Dobbs, the current Court’s unwillingness to protect personal autonomy suggests that it may seek to undermine other rights allowing people to live freely and make their own personal decisions without unnecessary governmental interference,” Kaine said.

“This is why it’s so important for Congress to affirm for all Americans that the right to marry the person they choose and have that marriage be recognized should not depend on one’s zip code. Advancing this bill forward will be an important step to making good on our promise of equality to all,” Kaine said.

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), re-elected to a third term earlier this month, said her colleagues need to move quickly ”to protect members of our communities from discrimination and protect the basic human dignity of millions of our fellow Americans.”

“No one should discriminate against or deny legal protections to these Americans, simply based on who they love,” Spanberger said. “I will vote to protect their rights again and again — as many times as is necessary — to make sure that marriage equality for same-sex and interracial couples is federal law in the United States, and I urge my fellow lawmakers to do the same.”

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].