In the United States, the right to same-sex marriage may soon be protected by federal law. The US Senate voted on Tuesday evening (local time) with a bipartisan majority of 61 to 36 for a corresponding bill. 60 votes were required for adoption. Twelve Republicans supported the bill along with 49 Democrats, with two Democrats absent.
The House of Representatives still has to vote on the draft, which also protects marriages between people of different ethnic groups. However, the approval of the Chamber of Congress is considered certain, because there the Democrats of US President Joe Biden still have a narrow majority.
“Today we are moving down the long but unstoppable road to greater equality,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “By passing this law, the Senate is sending a message that every American needs to hear: No matter who you are or who you love, you too deserve dignity and equal treatment before the law,” the Democrat said.
The passage of the law, which had not been given much chance in the Senate in the summer, would be a historic step. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States by a 2015 Supreme Court decision (known as Obergefell v. Hodges). It declared unconstitutional a 1996 law that established marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.
However, concerns arose this year when the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court reversed the Supreme Court’s abortion-rights ruling dating back to the 1970s. One of the judges, arch-conservative lawyer Clarence Thomas, placed the decision on same-sex marriages in a series of judgments that the court must reconsider.
If the court does overturn the 2015 decision and there is no federal legislation, states could refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 568,000 married same-sex couples in the United States.
Federal law would not force any US state to allow same-sex couples to marry. But it would require states to recognize all marriages legally contracted elsewhere. It also protects existing same-sex marriages. The same applies to marriage between people of different ethnicities.
“love is love”
With the vote, the United States is on the verge of affirming “a fundamental truth,” said US President Biden. “Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.” For years, lawmakers have been trying to pass federal legislation that would establish the right to same-sex marriage, and with it the 1996 law once and for all binding. So far they have always failed.
Biden’s Democrats had made a new attempt in the summer – and the draft also passed the House of Representatives. But since changes were made to the text in the Senate, the draft now has to go through the other chamber of Congress again.
The Democrats will hold the majority in the House of Representatives until the end of the year. In the next legislature, the Republicans will have narrow control of the chamber due to gains in seats in the recent midterm elections. So the Democrats have to hurry to get important legislation through.
In the vote in the Senate, all dissenting votes came from Republicans – but at the same time twelve Republicans voted with the Democrats for the law and thus brought the necessary votes. A majority of the US population, polls show, support the right to same-sex marriage – and so do a majority of Republican supporters.
The Senate should actually vote on the text of the law before the congressional elections in early November. But this has been postponed. For the Republicans, a pre-election vote was considered tricky, they didn’t want to take a position. Many right-wing Republicans had recently placed particular emphasis on trans-hostile statements and thus heated up the mood in the country.
Deadly shots in a nightclub popular with gays, lesbians and the trans community caused great horror. Five people were killed in the attack in Colorado a week and a half ago. “I think you can say from the facts that it’s very hard to imagine a situation where the motive isn’t hatred,” the Colorado attorney general said. (dpa, Reuters)
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