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The Respect for Marriage Act is expected to be signed into law soon

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Senate has approved bipartisan legislation to codify same-sex marriage into law. Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: After months of hard work, after many rounds of bipartisan talks and after many doubts that we could even reach this point, we are taking the momentous step forward for greater justice for LGBTQ Americans.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The bill is also expected to draw strong support in the House. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is covering the vote. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Same-sex marriage was recognized by the Supreme Court in 2015 in the Obergefell decision. So remind us why lawmakers are taking this step now to protect same-sex marriage.

GRISALES: Right. So this plan was triggered after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, another protection for women that was considered settled law. And the majority of the court's justices upended that landmark protection. Justice Clarence Thomas had issued his own opinion that invited new legal challenges for other protections, including same-sex marriage. And as Schumer noted in his Senate floor remarks, he said, despite all the progress made, the constitutional right to same-sex marriage is not even a decade old. And it exists only by virtue of a narrow 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

And Schumer said this was personal for him. He wore a tie today that he had worn to his daughter's wedding to her wife years ago. And he said the couple agonized after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and worried that their marriage could be invalidated. He was emotional when he recounted that the couple is now expecting a child next year.

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SCHUMER: I want them to raise their child with all the love and security that every child deserves. And the bill we are passing today will ensure their rights won't be trampled upon simply because they're in a same-sex marriage.

GRISALES: So the Democratic-led Congress, with this Respect for Marriage Act, tries to head off any of these legal challenges that could seek to overturn this protection.

SHAPIRO: And after the Senate votes, the House is expected to do the same. What's the partisan breakdown here?

GRISALES: Right. There is strong Republican support for this legislation. For example, just to get the bill moved forward through a procedural vote earlier, a dozen Senate Republicans signed on to get that debate going. And about 50 House Republicans signed on to the legislation that was passed earlier this year there. Senator Susan Collins of Maine was one of those key GOP members who signed on to the plan.

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SUSAN COLLINS: It advances the rights of couples, same-sex and interracial couples who are married to one another. And it advances religious liberty.

GRISALES: So she gives their reason for why there's a strong share of Republican support for the plan. And she also pointed to respect of religious liberties and support from religious groups as reasons to vote for it.

SHAPIRO: Also mentioning there that it protects interracial marriages as well as same-sex marriages. Tell us technically what this bill would actually do.

GRISALES: Right. It codifies the right to federal recognition of marriage for the same-sex couples. So an individual would be considered married if their marriage was recognized in the state where the ceremony was performed. As you mentioned, it also provides those protections for interracial couples as well. And supporters have said it strengthens civil rights, and it could be key when it comes to providing medical or retirement benefits.

SHAPIRO: And just in a sentence or two, how soon could it become law?

GRISALES: Yeah. This could be heading to President Biden's desk sometime in the coming weeks. It marks a major goal for Democrats who wanted to get this bill moved by year end before House Republicans took control of the House and limited their options on moving legislation like this.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thanks a lot.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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