The House passed the Respect For Marriage Act Tuesday to codify legal same-sex marriage nationwide, fearing that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will rescind the right after it overturned Roe v. Wade last month.
The vote was 267-157, with 47 Republicans joining a unanimous Democratic caucus in supporting the legislation.
Among the GOP lawmakers who voted for the measure were Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 Republican in the House, and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, head of the House Republicans’ campaign arm, also backed the bill.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana voted against the measure.
The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, enshrine legal same-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law, and add legal protections for married couples of the same sex.
Same-sex marriage remains the law of the land under the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. But Democrats cited a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas calling on the court, which has added new conservative members since Obergefell, to reverse the ruling as well as another landmark decision legalizing contraception after the court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.
House Democrats plan to vote later this week on a similar bill to codify the right to contraception, which was established by a more liberal Supreme Court in the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling.
Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who is openly gay, emphasized the importance of Congress stepping in to protect same-sex marriage rights. “Imagine telling the next generation, my generation, we no longer have the right to marry who we love. Congress can’t allow that to happen,” he said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill would “enshrine into law a fundamental freedom: the right to marry whomever you choose.”
“As radical justices and right-wing politicians continue their assault on our basic rights, Democrats believe that the government has no place between you and the person you love,” she said.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, blasted the legislation as “the latest installment of the Democrats’ campaign to attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court.”
“Democrats can’t run on their record, or any accomplishments, less than four months before an election and stoke unfounded fears,” he said. “I hope we can defeat [the bill].”
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain, as it requires at least 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster. So far the same-sex marriage protections have only one GOP backer: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
The proposal has put GOP senators in a bind, caught between their culturally conservative base, which opposes same-sex marriage, and a large majority of the country that wants it to remain legal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to say how he would vote if the legislation came up for a vote.
“I’m going to delay announcing anything on that issue until we see what the majority leader wants to put on the floor,” he told reporters at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not say Tuesday whether or when the chamber would vote on the measures.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., dismissed the need for the proposals, saying that Congress “should be focused on real issues” like innovation, inflation and energy.
“There’s a host of other issues that people don’t spend all day on Twitter care about. Their entire agenda is really responsive to the donor base and their activist base, but it’s not responsive to the vast majority of Americans,” Rubio told NBC News.
“Those aren’t real issues. I’ve never seen a person come up to me and talk about getting rid of gay marriage,” he said. “This is what their base is demanding that they do. Their radical base represents probably 2 percent of the country but a significant majority of the people who give them money.”
By Sahil Kapur and Kyle Stewart | NBC News