- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Senate is poised to pass landmark legislation Tuesday that would codify same-sex marriage rights following months of wrangling over religious liberty protections.

The bill, dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act, is expected to narrowly pass with the help of a dozen GOP senators who backed the measure after a carve-out was included for nonprofit religious groups such as churches that don’t want to provide services for same-sex marriages.

It will then need to be approved by the House, which passed similar legislation in July with bipartisan support, before heading to President Biden’s desk. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said that just having the vote was noteworthy.

“A decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples,” he said. “America does move forward, although sometimes in difficult ways, and sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back.”

Still, the process has been a messy one. Republicans plan to make a last-ditch attempt to strengthen the religious liberty provisions that most GOP senators argue do not go far enough to shield religious institutions and private businesses from lawsuits for not catering to same-sex marriages.

The Senate will vote on three amendments seeking to strengthen religious liberty and freedom protections, though none are expected to pass.

The amendments were offered by Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Marco Rubio of Florida. 

Mr. Lee’s amendment will need 60 votes to pass while Mr. Lankford’s and Mr. Rubio’s will require a simple majority. A vote on final passage will then take place, which requires 60 votes under an agreement to fast-track the legislative process. 

Supporters of the legislation will shoot down the amendments because they fear they would tank the bipartisan legislation.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who is a proponent of the bill, said that although he supports Mr. Lee’s amendment, it’s “far more expansive” than the current bill.

Mr. Tillis and 11 other GOP senators support the legislation, including Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana.  

The bill is expected to pass with 61 votes. Democrats are down one vote in the 50-50 split chamber because Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is in his home state of Georgia campaigning for the Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican Herschel Walker.

In a test vote before Thanksgiving, the legislation survived 62-37.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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