The US House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation protecting same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decades long battle for nationwide recognition that reflects a stark turnaround in societal attitudes.
President Joe Biden has said he will promptly sign the measure requiring all states to recognise same-sex marriages. It is a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized those marriages and have worried about what would happen if the current court overturned the ruling.
In a statement after the vote, Biden called the legislation a “critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love." He said the legislation provides “hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognise and respect the families they build.”
The legislation would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognise legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”
Democrats moved the bill quickly through the House and Senate after the Supreme Court’s decision in June that overturned the federal right to an abortion. And after justice Clarence Thomas's opinion on the case suggested that the court could also reconsider its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
While many Republicans predicted that was unlikely to happen, and said the bill was unnecessary, Democrats and GOP supporters of the bill said it shouldn't be left to chance.
“We need it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presided over the vote as one of her last acts in leadership before stepping aside in January. “It is magic."
The bill is “a glorious triumph of love and freedom,” Pelosi said, tearing up as she celebrated its passage.
The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as Obergefell now does. But it would require states to recognise all marriages that were legal where they were performed and protect current same-sex unions if the Supreme Court overturned its decision.