The Triumph of Respecting Marriage and Religious Liberty
For those of us over forty, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition and benefits for married gay couples, seemed here to stay. It was adopted by nearly unanimous congressional majorities and signed by Bill Clinton in the heat of a presidential election year. But more importantly it reflected the views of at least two-thirds of all Americans at the time. Even after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, repealing DOMA was very low on the list of priorities for most LGBT-rights groups and at any rate surely could not get enough support to end a filibuster by Republicans in the Senate.
But today the Senate voted to close debate on the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) (text here), repealing DOMA and requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. I previously discussed the substantive provisions of the RMA here (my co-blogger Ilya recently discussed them here), and won’t elaborate further. The Senate must still vote to approve the bill. The amended version will then have to pass in the House, where a large majority (including 47 Republicans) already backed it.
The last time I wrote about RMA, I noted that the bill did not exclude the protection of individual religious freedom under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That was notable because the centerpiece LGBT-rights legislation pending in Congress, the Equality Act (which is comatose), specifically excludes RFRA’s religious protections.
Since July, a bipartisan group of Senators (led by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME)) not only preserved RFRA, but worked with others to craft additional language assuaging
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