The House passed a bill Tuesday to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and codify legal recognition for interracial and same-sex marriages nationwide, part of the legislative response from Democrats to recent Supreme Court decisions.
The House voted 267-157, mostly along party lines, with support from Democrats and 47 Republicans, to send the bill to the Senate.
The measure would repeal the 1996 law that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, as well as mandate that all states honor out-of-state marriages regardless of the race, gender or sexual orientation of the couple.
Democrats argued the measure was needed following last month’s Supreme Court ruling that reversed Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other backers argued that the language of the abortion ruling also endangers a Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional in 2012.
Pelosi and other proponents sought to tie the bill, and any Republicans who voted against it, to an empowered bloc of conservative justices who shifted the court to the right this term.
“As radical justices and right-wing politicians continue their assault on our basic rights, Democrats believe that the government has no place between you and the person you love,” Pelosi said on the House floor.
The Biden administration came out in favor of the bill in a statement Tuesday. “No person should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love, and every married couple in the United States deserves the security of knowing that their marriage will be defended and respected,” the administration said.
Democrats and legal experts have said the majority opinion in the abortion case — in which Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that the Constitution protects only rights “deeply rooted in our history and traditions” — puts the Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage on the chopping block as well.
Republicans such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan disagreed, saying Democrats have stoked false fears about the future of same-sex marriage. Jordan pointed to a portion of the Supreme Court opinion on abortion that states the ruling “should not be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”
“We are here for a charade,” Jordan said on the floor. “We’re here for political messaging, and Democrats can’t run on their disastrous record. They can’t run on any accomplishments less than four months before an election, and all Democrats can do is stoke unfounded fears.”
On the House floor, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called “nonsense” on the argument from Jordan and other Republicans. Nadler said the logic the majority applied to abortion rights could easily apply to same-sex marriage, same-sex relationships and access to contraception.
Nadler also pointed to a separate concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote that “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” referring to the cases that established those rights.
“Justice Thomas mentioned all that specifically,” Nadler said.
New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis was among the Republicans who backed the measure. The first-term representative issued a statement before Tuesday’s vote that the bill would “ensure our fellow Americans continue to have the right to equal marriage and benefits under federal law.”
To the Senate
Although Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, a closely divided Senate has so far stymied their efforts to address the Supreme Court’s decisions this term. An earlier effort to pass legislation codifying the right to an abortion didn’t gain enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Additionally, Republicans have blocked Democrats’ efforts to prevent states from prohibiting women to travel elsewhere seeking an abortion. In a floor speech last week, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., called concerns from Democrats over the danger to women’s health from laws banning abortion care “misinformation.”
During an interview Tuesday with NBC News, Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., called the bill “largely scare tactics by Democrats in a political season.”
However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday he had not made a decision about the future of the bill in the Senate.