The US Congress has finally approved a law providing federal protection for same-sex marriage, BTA reported. The measure will take effect after being signed by President Joe Biden. This is a formality, as Biden has committed to doing so immediately, notes AFP.
The law was pushed by the president’s Democratic Party over concerns that the conservative-dominated Supreme Court would curtail gay rights. The House of Representatives approved the measure today by a vote of 258 to 169. All Democrats, but only 39 Republicans, supported the law. 169 representatives of the opposition party voted against and one abstained.
The US Senate already approved the law, called the Respect for Marriage Act, last week. The legislation was passed to back up the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, known as Obergefell v. Hodges. It will allow the federal government and individual states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages if they are legal in the states where they take place. However, the law introduces concessions regarding religious groups and institutions that do not support such marriages.
The measure would amend a 1996 US law called the Defense of Marriage Act, which among other things denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. The new law prohibits individual states from refusing to recognize the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race, or ethnic origin.
The Supreme Court declared the ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional in 1967. However, the new legislation would not prohibit individual states from barring same-sex and interracial marriages if the Supreme Court allowed them to do so. The new law also ensures that religious organizations will not be forced to provide goods or services for any marriage and protects them from being denied tax breaks or other privileges because they refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.