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House Moves to Protect Same-Sex Marriage From Supreme Court Reversal

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WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday passed a bill that will recognize same-sex marriages on the federal level, with a bipartisan coalition supporting a measure that addresses growing concerns that a conservative Supreme Court could nullify marriage equality.

Forty-seven Republicans joined Democrats in backing the bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, which might 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 with no consideration under the 14th Amendment.

It’s a direct answer to Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in last month’s ruling that overturned federal abortion rights, by which he wrote that Obergefell and similar cases must be reconsidered.

The support amongst House Republicans, although removed from a majority, was remarkable in a celebration that for many years has made social conservatism a litmus test, and it suggested the beginnings of a shift in Congress that mirrors a broader acceptance of same-sex marriage as settled law.

The party’s leaders split on the bill. The highest two Republicans, Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, voted no. However the No. 3 Republican, Representative Elise Stefanik of Latest York, joined Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the G.O.P. campaign committee chairman, were in favor. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming also voted for the bill.

Still, greater than three quarters of the party opposed the bill, which passed in a vote of 267 to 157.

The measure faces an uncertain path within the evenly divided Senate, where it was not clear if it could draw the support of the ten Republicans needed to maneuver it forward. But Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, declined on Tuesday to state a position on the bill.

House Democratic leaders opted to maneuver forward with the bill after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning abortion rights raised worries in regards to the prospect that the justices might revisit cases that affirmed same-sex marriage rights and the precise to contraception. The controversy in Congress thrust the difficulty into the midterm election campaign, where Democrats are desperate to draw a distinction between their party’s support for L.G.B.T.Q. rights and opposition by many Republicans.

Within the Senate, Chuck Schumer, Democrat of Latest York and the bulk leader, didn’t commit to bringing up the measure but said he was “going to have a look at all the pieces that we are able to do to take care of these issues” following the court’s decision overturning abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“Let’s face it: This can be a MAGA Supreme Court — a MAGA, right-wing extremist Supreme Court — very, very distant from not only where the typical American is, but even the typical Republican,” Mr. Schumer said.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who wrote the court’s decision in Dobbs, said the ruling mustn’t be read as affecting issues apart from abortion. But Justice Thomas’s concurrence suggested otherwise, and Justice Alito has suggested before that Obergefell must be revisited, arguing that it invented a right with no basis within the text of the Structure.

Over the weekend, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said he agreed, asserting in an interview for his podcast that Obergefell and Roe v. Wade had been wrongly decided and that each had “ignored two centuries of our nation’s history.” But he added that overturning the same-sex marriage ruling, which he called “clearly mistaken,” may very well be disruptive and can be unlikely.

“You’ve got a ton of people that have entered into gay marriages, and it will be greater than somewhat chaotic for the court to do something that by some means disrupted those marriages which have been entered into in accordance with the law,” Mr. Cruz said.

The laws passed on Tuesday would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defined a wedding because the union between a person and a girl, a law that was struck down by Obergefell but has remained on the books. The laws would mandate that the federal government recognize a wedding if it was valid within the state where it was performed, which might address the patchwork of differing state laws. That might protect same-sex marriages within the roughly 30 states that currently prohibit them, should the court overturn Obergefell.

The bill also would offer additional legal protections to same-sex couples, reminiscent of giving the attorney general the authority to pursue enforcement actions and ensuring that every one states recognize public acts, records and judicial proceedings for out-of-state marriages.

“Today, we take a crucial step towards protecting the numerous families and youngsters who depend on the rights and privileges underpinned by the constitutional guarantee of marriage equality,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of Latest York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in an announcement. “The Respect for Marriage Act will further add stability and certainty for these children and families.”

The White House issued an announcement on Tuesday in support of the bill, a version of which is co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

The House vote reflected a shift amongst Republicans on same-sex marriage as public opinion polls have shown that a majority of the party supports it. G.O.P. leaders didn’t officially instruct their members to vote no, in response to two people aware of the interior discussions, making the vote more a matter of private conscience.

The bloc of Republicans who supported the measure amounted to lower than 1 / 4 of the party conference, but that was a far greater proportion than gay rights laws has drawn up to now from G.O.P. lawmakers. Only three Republicans voted last 12 months for sweeping laws that will prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Tim Lindberg, an assistant professor on the University of Minnesota Morris, said there had been a shift in perception on L.G.B.T.Q. rights throughout the country, and on same-sex marriage particularly.

“There isn’t any risk in supporting it, but there’s a political liability in the event you go too far right,” Mr. Lindberg said regarding same-sex marriage rights. “It’s not a measuring stick for whether you’re a conservative anymore.”

Republicans haven’t shown nearly as much support for other items on the Democratic agenda, reminiscent of two bills searching for to make sure access to abortion. However the vote on the same-sex marriage laws didn’t show a serious shift in Republican views on other social issues, said Adam Probolsky, a nonpartisan pollster and former Republican operative.

“There’s just this general realization that these so-called social elements of the agendas should not the major reason why persons are Democrats or Republicans,” Mr. Probolsky said. “Still, you hope it’s an indication of things to come back. It’s good public policy being made in a way that it’s imagined to be.”

Last fall, Ms. Cheney, a staunch conservative, dropped her longstanding opposition to same-sex marriage, saying, “I used to be mistaken.” Her sister, Mary Cheney, is gay and married with children, and Liz Cheney’s earlier opposition had caused a rift within the famous family.

“That is a difficulty that we’ve got to acknowledge as human beings that we’d like to work against discrimination of all types in our country, in our state,” Liz Cheney told “60 Minutes” in September. “Freedom means freedom for everybody.”

Representative Nicole Malliotakis of Latest York, one other Republican who backed the bill, said in an announcement that she still feels remorse for opposing same-sex marriage greater than a decade ago as a state legislator.

“In 2017, I expressed my deep regret for voting against a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Latest York State while within the State Assembly six years prior,” Ms. Malliotakis said. “Every legislator has votes they regret, and to at the present time, that vote was one of the difficult I’ve needed to take.”

Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, who has previously supported same-sex marriage, said she backed the measure since it was “constitutionally sound.”

“If this offers some peace of mind to make sure the institution of marriage is protected, then that’s what I’ll vote for,” Ms. Mace said.

But most Republicans were opposed. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the highest Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the measure was a bid by Democrats to delegitimize the Supreme Court.

“We’re debating this bill today since it is an election 12 months,” Mr. Jordan said. “We’re here for political messaging.”

Mr. Nadler contended the laws was a obligatory response to Dobbs. Even when lawmakers accepted Justice Alito’s contention that the choice had no implications for other rights, he said, the laws was a way for Congress to “provide additional reassurance that marriage equality is a matter of settled law.”

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