The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday to protect same–sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion access could jeopardize other rights criticized by many conservatives.
In a robust but lopsided debate, Democrats argued intensely and often personally in favor of enshrining marriage equality in federal law, while Republicans steered clear of openly rejecting gay marriage. Instead leading Republicans portrayed the bill as unnecessary amid other issues facing the nation.
Tuesday’s election–year roll call, 267–157, was partly political strategy, forcing all House members, Republicans and Democrats, to go on the record. It also reflected the legislative branch pushing back against an aggressive court that has raised questions about revisiting other apparently settled U.S. laws.
Wary of political fallout, GOP leaders did not press their members to hold the party line against the bill, aides said. In all, 47 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for passage.
“For me, this is personal,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones, D–N.Y., who said he was among the openly gay members of the House.
“Imagine telling the next generation of Americans, my generation, we no longer have the right to marry who we love,” he said. “Congress can’t allow that to happen.”
While the Respect for Marriage Act easily passed the House with a Democratic majority, it is likely to stall in the evenly split Senate, where most Republicans would probably join a filibuster to block it. It’s one of several bills, including those enshrining abortion access, that Democrats are proposing to confront the court’s conservative majority. Another bill, guaranteeing access to contraceptive services, is set for a vote later this week.
House GOP leaders split over the issue, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Rep. Steve Scalise voting against the marriage rights bill, but the No. 3 Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York voting in favor.
In a notable silence, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declined to express his view on the bill, leaving an open question over how strongly his party would fight it, if it should come up for a vote in the upper chamber.