Senate advances same-sex marriage bill despite Sen. Johnson's opposition
WASHINGTON D.C. -- The bipartisan bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage advanced in the Senate after reaching the 60-vote threshold needed, a crucial step towards final passage.
The legislation called the Respect for Marriage Act passed 62-37 on the Senate floor Wednesday after a vote was delayed until after the midterm elections. Final passage in the Senate is likely to occur after Thanksgiving recess and it will need to be passed again in the House before it heads to President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) spearheaded the bill along with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
“Today, we took a step forward in our fight to give millions of loving couples the certainty, dignity, and respect that they need and deserve," Baldwin said in a statement. "We came together to move the Respect for Marriage Act forward and give the millions of Americans in same-sex and interracial marriages the certainty that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages."
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) voted against the bill after signaling earlier in the day he would, but his opposition didn't impact the bill from advancing.
In a statement, Johnson repeated he believed it was unnecessary to hold a vote because he believes the 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage is not at risk.
"The Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary as the Obergefell decision is settled law and has no chance of being overturned," Johnson said. "The Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization made clear no other right would be affected by its ruling. The Democrats have used this to create a state of fear over a settled issue in order to further divide Americans for their political benefit."
Still, many Democrats believe the measure was necessary after Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the high court should "reconsider" cases including the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
Johnson signaled he would have supported the legislation if it included "sufficient protection for those with strongly held religious beliefs" and the bills current form "leaves a lane open for discrimination by activist groups, state governments and the IRS."