Respect for Marriage Act delayed until after Thanksgiving break in Senate

February 27, 2017: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to a press conference at the National Press Club
February 27, 2017: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to a press conference at the National Press ClubPhoto: Shutterstock

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said late last night that debate on the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) is suspended and will continue on November 28, when the Senate reconvenes after Thanksgiving.

The RFMA would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed by the states. The bill would also require all other states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed by other states. The bill would not require states that ban marriage equality to perform those marriages themselves, should they ban them if Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, is overturned.

Proponents of the law argue that it’s necessary in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which shared some of the same legal reasoning as the Court’s decision in Obergefell. Justice Clarence Thomas also urged the Supreme Court to reconsider Obergefell now that Roe has been overturned, a sign that the Court may be coming for same-sex marriage rights as well.

The RFMA passed the House in June but has been slower in moving through the Senate. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has shepherded the bill in the Senate and she initially said she thought 10 Republican senators would vote for it. However, she and Schumer decided to delay the bill’s introduction until after the midterm elections, and now until after Thanksgiving.

The bill cleared a major hurdle earlier this week with 62 senators – including 12 Republicans – voting for an end to the filibuster of the bill. Now it will undergo 30 hours of debate and possible amendments before it will be voted on again. If it passes with amendments, it will go back to the House for another vote and then to President Joe Biden to sign. He is expected to sign it.

Conservatives have been saying that the bill will lead to “pedophilic marriage” and “polygamous marriages” because it requires states to recognize marriages performed in other states, and many states allow minors to marry. An amendment to exclude child and polygamous marriages is expected to be included in the Senate version of the RFMA.

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