The controversial “Respect for Marriage Act,” which is the Democrats’ bill to enshrine gay marriage at the federal level, has passed the Senate.
The yes votes included both Republican senators from Alaska — Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan had worked to get freedom-protecting amendments to the floor for a vote but they failed.
By a vote of 48-49, the Senate did not adopt the Sen. Mike Lee amendment; 60 aye votes were needed. Voting against the amendment was Sen. Susan Collins; Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, voted aye.
By a vote of 45-52, the Senate did not adopt the Sen. James Lankford amendment. Republicans voting against the amendment were Sens. Collins, Murkowski, and Rob Portman.
By a vote of 45-52, the Senate did not adopt the Sen. Marco Rubio amendment. Sens. Collins, Murkowski and Portman voted against that amendment.
The final bill passed 61-36, with the help of Republicans Roy Blunt, Missouri; Richard Burr, North Carolina; Shelley Capito, West Virginia; Susan Collins, Maine; Joni Ernst, Iowa; Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Rob Portman, Ohio; Mitt Romney, Utah; Dan Sullivan, Alaska; Thom Tillis, North Carolina; and Todd Young, Indiana.
They were the same Republicans who voted to advance the bill to the floor on Monday.
The bill, which now goes back to the House for approval, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, and forces those “acting under color of state law” to recognize same-sex marriages. It makes same-sex marriages officially sanctioned by the federal government.
Supporters argue that the bill protects religious rights and freedom. But religious leaders across the country, including Catholic Church leaders, such as United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, warned that the bill puts people of faith in the crosshairs. Both Murkowski and Sullivan are Catholics.
Murkowski issued a statement about her vote:
“Today, I voted to begin debate on a bipartisan compromise of the Respect for Marriage Act. This bill protects the marriage of countless couples across the country. States will continue to set their own definitions of marriage, the federal government will be required to recognize all lawful marriages, and no out-of-state marriages will be able to be denied on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.
I have long supported marriage equality and believe all lawful marriages deserve respect. I thank my colleagues who improved the bill’s protections for religious liberty and continued prohibitions on polygamy, allowing it to move forward this week. All Americans deserve dignity, respect, and equal protection under the law.”
Sen. Sullivan issued a statement:
“While I’ve long held that marriage should be an issue left up to the states, the Supreme Court nationalized the issue in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Although I disagreed with Obergefell, I said then I would respect the Court’s decision and also continue to fight for, respect, and defend the religious liberty of all Americans.
“Even with a Republican president and Republican majorities in the House and Senate, we were unable to codify any substantive religious liberty protections into law—until today. The protections included in the Respect for Marriage Act are vital because the Supreme Court in Obergefell changed the law of the land on marriage in America, but did not also include robust religious liberty protections for religious organizations and the millions of Americans who believe in, preach, and practice traditional marriage.
“I worked relentlessly to ensure the Respect for Marriage Act codifies several religious liberty protections into law, including several protections for churches and non-profit Christian universities that hold traditional views of marriage. While the final product does not include every religious liberty protection I voted to include, it is my sincere judgment that the bill we passed in the Senate today—unlike the House bill—is much more about promoting and expanding religious liberty protections than same-sex marriage.
“This bill has the strongest religious liberty protections for religious organizations that believe in traditional marriage since the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993. For this reason, many prominent religious groups that believe in traditional marriage, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supported this bill and its strong religious liberty protections.”
Sen. Collins also issued a statement:
“Tonight, the Senate took a historic step to help prevent discrimination, promote equality and protect the rights of all Americans by passing the Respect for Marriage Act that @SenatorBaldwin and I authored. Our bill would help ensure everyone is treated with respect and dignity.” Collins made no mention of protection for religious liberties.
The vote had been postponed until after the elections, but is also on a fast-track for the House of Representatives to vote on the Senate changes to the bill before sending it to President Joe Biden for signature. The House, which is flipping to Republican control in January, is sure to act quickly this week.