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Sewell, House approve bill safeguarding same-sex, interracial marriage

The bill would codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriages as fears abound that Supreme Court could overturn precedents.

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted 267-157 on Tuesday to approve the “Respect for Marriage Act” to bolster the right to same-sex and interracial marriages in the law.

The vote comes after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas hinted in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case overturning Roe v. Wade that the Court should also consider reversing the court’s 2016 precedent that legalized same-sex marriage. However, Justice Samuel Alito specifically excluded that precedent and several others from being affected by the opinion.

Rep. Terri Sewell said the bill will protect marriage equality in Alabama and across the country.

“As the Supreme Court comes after our hard fought personal liberties, right-wing extremists are now threatening to strip away Americans’ right to marry the person they love. With the Respect for Marriage Act, House Democrats are taking urgent action to enshrine marriage equality into federal law and prohibit states from discriminating against same-sex and interracial couples. We will not go back!”

All six Congressional representatives from Alabama voted against the bill, although it received support from nearly 50 Republicans in the House. 

“The SPLC Action Fund applauds the House of Representatives for quickly beginning the process of codifying same-sex and interracial marriage while strengthening marriage-equality protections,” said Scott McCoy, SPLC Action Fund interim deputy legal director. “Justice Clarence Thomas’ shocking concurrence to the appalling late June Dobbs Supreme Court decision, overruling almost 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion and reproductive freedom, demanded immediate attention. Repealing DOMA and providing couples in same-sex and interracial marriages the same legal protections that other couples enjoy is an essential step towards ensuring those threats are never realized.

“By taking the initiative to protect these unions, the House has acted to prevent another premeditated attempt to roll back basic rights. Swift Senate passage of this bill is needed to reaffirm that the right to marry the person you love is protected for all.”

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Senators Tommy Tuberville and Richard Shelby have told reporters where they stand on marriage but did not signal how they would vote on the bill when it comes before the upper chamber.

A spokesperson for Shelby said he believes marriage is between a “man and a woman” while Tuberville expressed more ambivalence on the issue.

Tuberville told reporters on Wednesday there was “no need for legislating on gay marriage.”

“I’m all about live life the way you want to. It’s a free country,” he said. When asked if he supported same-sex marriage, he responded, “Yeah, if that’s what you want to do, fine.”

The bill has not yet been set for a vote by the Senate.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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