In one of Pelosi’s final acts, bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions passes Congress

“For me, this is really just written in the Constitution,” said Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, who voted for it both times. She opposed GOP arguments that it would affect the religious rights of those who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

“Nobody’s religious freedoms are being affected in any way,” Wagner said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be emotional before she signed the bill.Credit:AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over the vote in one of her last acts as leader before stepping down in January. She said the legislation “will ensure that” the federal government will never again get in the way of getting married to the person you love.

The legislation does not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges now does. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they occurred and would protect current same-sex unions if the Obergefell decision were overturned.

While it’s not all that advocates may have wanted, the passage of the legislation marks a watershed moment. Just a decade ago, many Republicans were openly campaigning to block same-sex marriage; today more than two-thirds of the public support them.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Pictured With Wife, Virginia Thomas, Suggested Same-Sex Marriage Could Be Reviewed By The Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, pictured with wife, Virginia Thomas, suggested same-sex marriage could be reviewed by the Supreme Court.Credit:AP

Still, most Republicans opposed the legislation and some conservative advocacy groups have lobbied aggressively in recent weeks, arguing that it doesn’t do enough to protect those who want to deny services to same-sex couples.

“God’s perfect design is indeed a lifelong marriage between one man and one woman,” Representative Bob Good, R-Va, said ahead of the vote. “And it doesn’t matter what you think or what I think, that’s what the Bible says.”

Representative Vicky Hartzler choked as she implored colleagues to vote against the bill, which she says undermines “natural marriage” between a man and a woman.

“I’ll tell you my priorities,” Hartzler said. “Protect religious freedom, protect people of faith, and protect Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage.”

Senator Tammy Baldwin, Left, Accompanied By Senator Susan Collins, Speaks To Reporters Following Senate Approval Of The Respect For Marriage Act, At The U.s. Capitol.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, left, accompanied by Senator Susan Collins, speaks to reporters following Senate approval of the Respect for Marriage Act, at the U.S. Capitol.Credit:AP

Senate Democrats, led by Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, sought to address those GOP concerns by negotiating an amendment that would clarify that the legislation would not affect the rights of individuals or companies already in current law are enshrined. The amended bill would also clarify that marriage is between two people, an attempt to deflect far-right criticism that the legislation could sanction polygamy.

Eventually, several religious groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supported the bill. The Mormon Church said it would support the rights of same-sex couples as long as they did not infringe on the right of religious groups to believe as they please.

Thursday’s vote came as the LGBTQ community faced violent attacks, such as the shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado earlier this month that left five people dead and at least 17 injured.

“We’ve been through a lot,” said Kelley Robinson, the new president of the advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign. But Robinson says the votes show “in such an important way” that the country values ​​LBGTQ people.

“We’re part of the full story of what it means to be American,” said Robinson, who was in the Senate chamber for the vote last week with her wife and young son. “It really speaks to them to validate our love.”

The vote was also personal for many senators. On the day the bill passed their chambers, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wore the tie he wore to his daughter’s wedding to another woman. He recalled that day as “one of the happiest moments of my life”.

Baldwin, the first openly gay senator to deal with gay rights issues for nearly four decades, tearfully hugged Schumer as the final vote was underway. She tweeted thanks to the same-sex and interracial couples she says made the moment possible.

“By living as your true self, you have changed the hearts and minds of those around you,” she wrote.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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