COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Tuesday protecting the legitimacy of interracial and same-sex marriage with bipartisan support, including from Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman.
The Senate voted 61 to 36 in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, requiring a state to recognize a marriage from another state regardless of the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals. The bill also revokes the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that recognized marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman.”
Now, the bill returns to the House of Representatives for a vote before heading to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
Sen. Portman was one of 12 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in supporting the measure. Portman announced his support for same-sex marriage in 2013 after his son came out as gay.
“Today there are about a million same-sex households, about 60% of them are married,” Portman said on the Senate floor. “In the minds of most Americans, the validity of these marriages is a settled question and the overwhelming majority of Americans want this question to be settled.”
Seventy-one percent of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be recognized as valid by law, according to a recent Gallup poll. In addition, polling from 2021 shows 55% of Republicans support the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The Senate’s affirmation for same-sex marriages follows the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19 that left five people dead and at least 25 others injured.
The act also comes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion. A concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to reconsider other rulings that used similar reasoning, like the right to privacy. Among those decisions was Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015.
“We have to do this because in a recent Supreme Court case, there was this notion that maybe this would get revisited, this issue of same-sex marriage,” said Portman.
However, the Respect for Marriage Act would not offer all the same protections in place by Obergefell, especially in Ohio. Should the Court deem same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the bill would allow states to determine whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Ohio, along with 25 other states, have statutes and constitutional amendments in place that had prohibited same-sex marriage and would be reenacted if Obergefell were overturned, according to a report from the Movement Advancement Project.
In 2004, state lawmakers added language to the Ohio Revised Code that banned same-sex marriage, affirming that “a marriage may only be entered into by one man and one woman.” That same year, Ohio passed an amendment to the state’s constitution that read, “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions.”
Should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell, the Respect for Marriage Act would require Ohio only to recognize same-sex marriages from states where it is legal.
In the House, the Respect for Marriage Act passed in a 267 to 157 vote in July, with 47 Republicans joining all Democrats. Four Ohio Republicans — Mike Carey, Anthony Gonzalez, Dave Joyce and Mike Turner — joined the four Ohio Democrats to support the measure. The other eight Ohio Republicans voted against.
However, the House will have to once again pass the bill due to an added amendment.
The bill’s amended version further outlines protections for religious liberty and confirms that non-profit religious organizations will not be required to provide any services. It also guarantees that the bill may not be used to deny or alter any benefit, right or status and makes clear that the bill does not require or authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages.