In a massive win for LGBTQ+ rights, the US Senate has voted in favour of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Back in July, the inclusive bill was introduced to the House of Representatives after Justice Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should “reconsider” various landmark decisions relating to same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage and interracial relationships.

Under the proposed legislation, same-sex marriage would be codified, and gay couples would be granted an array of federal protections.

It would also formally repeal the Defense of Marriage Act – which deemed marriage as a union between a man and a woman back in 1996.

On 19 July, the Respect for Marriage Act officially passed in the House with a 267 to 157 vote. 

While the bill saw overwhelming support from the House, LGBTQ+ activists and political figures worried that it would stall in the Senate due to the upper chamber’s 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Under the current filibuster rules, 60 votes are required to pass the legislation.

In an effort to get at least 10 Republican votes, a bipartisanship group – including Sen. Rob Portman, Sen Tammy Baldwin, Sen Susan Collins, Sen Krysten Sinema and Sen Thom Tillis – amended the legislation to include clauses that “respect and protect Americans’ religious liberties.” 

After months of waiting, the Senate finally assembled on 17 November to vote on the historic legislation. 

“This legislation unites Americans with the Respect For Marriage Act, we can ease the fear for millions of same-sex and interracial couples have that their freedoms and their rights could be stripped away,” said Sen. Baldwin during the debate (per The Hill). 

“By passing this bill, we are guaranteeing same-sex and interracial couples, regardless of where they live, that their marriage is legal and that they will continue to enjoy the rights and the responsibilities that all other marriages are afforded.” 

After a round of passionate speeches, the Senate agreed to advance the Respect for Marriage Act with a landmark vote of 62 to 37. 

Shortly after the decision was reached, various activists and political figures celebrated the inclusive move on social media. 

“Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love. Today’s bipartisan Senate vote gets us closer to protecting that right,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet. 

“The Respect for Marriage Act protects all couples under law – I urge Congress to send the bill to my desk, so I can make it law.” 

Human Rights Campaign’s newly appointed president Kelly Robinson echoed similar sentiments in an additional statement.

“Today’s strong bipartisan vote of 62-37 for cloture is an incredible victory that cannot be taken lightly—this vote was the bill’s biggest procedural roadblock, and now we steer our focus forward to the Senate’s final vote on this historic legislation. Our work is not done,” she said. 

The Respect for Marriage Act now awaits final passage by the Senate before it returns to the House for one final vote.