WASHINGTON — The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on legislation to codify federal protections for marriages between same-sex and interracial couples.
Unless some Republican supporters of the bill flip, the Respect For Marriage Act is expected to pass, one day after it cleared another procedural hurdle by a vote of 61 to 35, receiving unanimous support from Senate Democrats and 12 GOP votes, enough to break a filibuster.
“We’re making a really positive difference in people’s lives by creating the certainty that their ability to protect their families will be lasting,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the author of the bill and first openly gay American elected to the Senate, told NBC News.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he’s wearing the same tie he wore to the wedding of his daughter and her wife. “It’s personal to me,” he told reporters.
Baldwin recently revised it to win Republican votes by adding language making clear religious organizations will not be required to perform same-sex marriages and that the federal government isn’t required to protect polygamous marriages.
If it passes, the bill would return to the House for a final vote before it can go to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill came about after the conservative Supreme Court majority overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, sparking fears that the justices may also revisit its liberal precedents that enshrine marriage rights for gay and interracial couples.
The legislation would require the federal government to recognize marriages that were valid in a state when performed. It would also assure full benefits for marriages “regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin,” but the bill would not require a state to issue a marriage license contrary to state law.
A lengthy procedural vote was held open by Schumer on Monday as Democrats sought to cut a deal with GOP senators who threatened to drag out the process unless they received votes on amendments. The chamber teed up three for votes Tuesday afternoon: one by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, at a 60-vote threshold, and two by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., both of which will need just a simple majority to pass.
Baldwin said Tuesday she doesn’t expect any of the amendments to pass. After that, the bill would proceed to a final vote, requiring 60 senators to pass.
Most Republicans are expected to oppose the legislation, but Monday’s procedural vote suggests the bill will have enough GOP support to pass. Proponents want to pass it in the lame-duck session before Republicans take control of the House on Jan. 3.
Frank Thorp V contributed.