Congress: US protects same-sex marriages by law

Milestone in the fight against discrimination: The US Congress passed a federal law to protect same-sex marriages.

Congress: US protects same-sex marriages by law

Milestone in the fight against discrimination: The US Congress passed a federal law to protect same-sex marriages. The House of Representatives voted Thursday by a bipartisan majority in favor of the bill. The Senate had previously approved it. Now US President Joe Biden has yet to sign it. US Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of a "historic day".

For Biden and his Democrats, the law is considered a great success. In the summer it looked like it would fail in the Senate.

In fact, same-sex marriages were legalized by a 2015 Supreme Court decision. At that time, the judges had declared a law from 1996 unconstitutional, in which marriage was codified only between a man and a woman. However, concerns arose this year that this could be in jeopardy when the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court overturned abortion rights.

Civil rights activists see a big catch

One of the judges, the arch-conservative lawyer Clarence Thomas, put the decision on same-sex marriages in a series of judgments that the court had to put to the test again - including, for example, the right to contraception. The words of the judge and the decision of the court had caused great outrage - religious groups, however, welcomed the verdict on abortion. The Supreme Court has moved significantly to the right under ex-President Donald Trump and has recently ruled in favor of religious plaintiffs, for example.

From the point of view of civil rights activists, however, the law that has now been passed has a major snag: it does not force any US state to allow same-sex couples to marry. But it does require states to recognize all marriages legally contracted elsewhere. It also protects same-sex marriages that already exist if the Supreme Court, which now has a majority of conservative judges, overturns its 2015 ruling. The law also protects marriages between people of different ethnicities - for example between blacks and whites.

The result is a compromise that the Democrats negotiated with the Republicans. Both the Senate and now the House of Representatives achieved a bipartisan majority. In Thursday's vote, 258 MPs voted in favor of the draft and 169 against. All dissenting votes came from Republicans - 39 Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the bill.

Nancy Pelosi was relieved

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was visibly relieved at a press conference after the vote. Previously, she had sharply criticized the Supreme Court in a guest article in the "Washington Post". Even if Judge Thomas' legal reasoning is "twisted and unsound", one must take the "extremist movement behind him" at his word. She criticized the fact that discrimination was increasing in some Republican-governed states. Parents seeking sex reassignment treatment for their children would be prosecuted. Teaching staff would be muzzled on the subject of same-sex couples.

For years, lawmakers have been trying to pass federal legislation that would establish the right to same-sex marriage, repealing the 1996 law once and for all. So far they have always failed. A majority of the US population, polls show, support the right to same-sex marriage - and so do a majority of Republican supporters.

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