The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level. Though it attracted bipartisan support, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales was the only Texas Republican to vote in favor of the measure.
The Respect for Marriage Act would codify the federal protections for same-sex couples that were put in place in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges established same-sex marriage as a right under the 14th Amendment. The legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 bill Democratic former President Bill Clinton signed into law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The bill was struck down by the court but has remained on the books. In order to override the patchwork of different state laws, the bill would also require states to recognize same-sex marriages if they were valid in the state they were performed. Roughly 30 states that would prohibit same-sex marriages, should the court overturn Obergefell.
The measure comes amid growing concerns that a conservative Supreme Court could nullify marriage equality. In last month’s ruling that overturned federal abortion rights, Justice Clarence wrote in his concurring opinion that Obergefell and similar cases should be reconsidered.
47 Republicans joined all 220 Democrats in a final vote of 267-157. All U.S. House Republicans from Texas voted against the bill, other than Gonzalez and Rep. Brian Babin who did not vote. In order to pass the Senate, 10 Republican Senators would have to support the legislation.
Over the weekend, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he thought that Obergefell and Roe v. Wade had been wrongly decided and that both had “ignored two centuries of our nation’s history.” But he added that overturning the same-sex marriage ruling, which he called “clearly wrong,” could be disruptive and would be unlikely.
“You’ve got a ton of people who have entered into gay marriages, and it would be more than a little chaotic for the court to do something that somehow disrupted those marriages that have been entered into in accordance with the law,” Cruz said.
I believe this law is key to rejecting the interpretation of Justice Clarence Thomas,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said on the House floor Tuesday morning. “We should not jeopardize someone’s right to love who they want to love.”