WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Tuesday is gearing up to be a historic day in the Senate as lawmakers are poised to pass a bill protecting the right to marry for same-sex couples.
The bill updates a 1996 law called the Respect for Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill broadens that definition to same-sex couples and requires the federal government, regardless of state law, to recognize same-sex marriages.
The vote comes seven years after the Supreme Court upheld the right to same-sex marriage.
“For so much of America, this bill was too important to risk failure,” Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor.
Schumer called the Respect for Marriage Act a historic milestone for same-sex couples, including those close to home.
“It’s personal to me,” he said, and gestured to his tie. “This is the tie I wore at my daughter’s wedding to her wife.”
The bill requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, even if the Supreme Court were to overturn its previous decision.
The first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, led the charge.
“Their marriages are and will continue to be in the future valid,” Baldwin said.
Sixty votes are needed to pass. In an earlier procedural vote, 12 Republicans led by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, backed the effort. Their support comes after Democrats included changes to the bill that protects religious institutions from violating their beliefs.
“It’s time for the Senate to settle the issue,” Portman said.
But the majority of GOP lawmakers remain opposed. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., insists same-sex marriage should be left to the states and called the protections for religious groups weak.
“I think the constitution is silent on this issue,” Hawley said. “Churches and religious organizations and religious persons I think will have their liberties infringed”
Once the bill makes it through the Senate, it will head back to the House for a final vote.