On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to formally begin the debate process on a controversial bill that would codify the “right” to same-sex marriage into federal law.
As reported by The Hill, the procedural vote to approve the legislation was approved by 53 senators, with 23 voting against. However, the bill’s seemingly inevitable passage has been hindered by the concerns of several Republicans regarding the bill’s treatment of religious freedom.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was re-elected last Tuesday, is leading the coalition of Republicans who are skeptical of the bill’s handling of First Amendment rights. An amendment that had been added to the bill addressing this issue, Lee says, does nothing more than pay “lip service” to the idea without actually enforcing religious freedom.
“[The bill] labels people of good faith as bigots and subjects them to endless harassing litigation and discrimination and threats by that same government that was founded to protect their religious liberty,” said Lee on the Senate floor. “We need to protect religious freedom. This bill doesn’t do that. It places it in grave jeopardy.”
But despite these questions, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed to see the bill pass before the new Congress is sworn in this January.
“While some may want to delay this process, make no mistake, there’s no stopping this bill from final passage,” Schumer threatened from the floor on Thursday. “The question of passage is not about if, but when.”
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed on the bill, with a staggering 62 votes in favor and 37 votes against. The vote saw 12 Republicans join all 50 Democrats in favor, including three Republicans who are retiring this year.
The group of senators spearheading the legislation consists of Democrats Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Republicans Susan Collins (D-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio); Portman is retiring from Congress in January, and is soon to be replaced by Senator-elect J.D. Vance (R-Ohio).
The bill was introduced shortly after the Supreme Court’s historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In his concurring remarks in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly suggested that other so-called “rights” recently enacted by prior Supreme Court rulings, including the “right” to marriage in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, might come under reconsideration in the future.