Updated Dec 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

House sends marriage equality bill to Biden's desk

Activists carry a rainbow flag near the U.S. Capitol Building.

Activists carry a rainbow flag near the U.S. Capitol Building. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The House on Thursday passed a bill codifying federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage, sending it to President Biden's desk for his signature.

Why it matters: The passage of the Respect for Marriage Act marks Congress' first successful legislative response to Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that overturned Roe v. Wade.

  • Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion in the case that the court should revisit several other landmark cases — including Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.

Driving the news: The bill passed the House 258-169 with one present vote.

  • The bill got support from 39 Republicans — a drop off from the 47 who voted for it in July. Two flipped from "no" in July to "yes" on Thursday: Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.).
  • But seven flipped from "yes" to "no": Reps. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.).
  • Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) voted present, while Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) did not vote. All three voted "yes" in July.

Between the lines: The vote on Thursday came after the general election, removing some political pressure on Republicans in more liberal districts to vote for it.

  • Herrera Beutler was facing a right-wing primary challenger over the summer.
  • Gallagher, meanwhile, had voiced concerns about the bill opening the door to legalized polygamy, which Senate changes addressed.

The backdrop: The bill passed the Senate 61-36 last month with support from a dozen Republicans.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a Washington Post column on Wednesday that she is "overjoyed that one of the final bills I will sign as speaker will be the Respect for Marriage Act."

What they're saying: Coming out of the chamber after the vote, Pelosi told Axios, "It's so exciting, I'm just kind of emotional about it because of all the friends that we have that worked so hard to make this possible."

  • The House speaker also voiced confusion about Republicans who flipped to "no" after the Senate added language clarifying it doesn’t infringe on religious liberty: "You'll have to ask them, because this bill was more in their direction."

Zoom in: The bill repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that established a federal definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

  • It also requires the federal government and states to recognize marriages that were legal in the states in which they were performed, regardless of a state's own laws on marriage.
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