Demonstrating movement in the Republican Party on the issue, 47 GOP House members joined with 220 Democrats Tuesday to pass a bill that would codify same-sex marriage into law and define marriage as between “2 individuals,” not only a husband and a wife.
The bill, dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404), passed by a vote of 267-157, with every member of the Democratic caucus supporting it. All 157 “no” votes came from Republicans.
GOP leadership was split on the bill. Although Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted against the bill, Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) voted for it. Stefanik, earlier this year, unseated former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as conference chair.
The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015 under Obergefell v. Hodges. The bill – if signed into law – would ensure that same-sex marriage remains legal if the high court reverses that decision. Three justices who voted in the minority in Obergefell remain on the court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
The bill officially repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed with bipartisan support in 1996 and allowed states to define marriage as they wanted. Additionally, the bill says states cannot deny recognition of a “marriage between 2 individuals.”
Underscoring how Republicans have changed on the issue, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act passed a GOP-controlled House, 342-67, with only one Republican opposing it.
In 2006, a Republican-controlled House supported a constitutional marriage amendment by a majority vote, although it failed to gain the two-thirds support to advance. That amendment – which defined marriage as between one man and one woman – drew 27 GOP votes in opposition.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called it “big news” that 47 Republicans voted for the latest bill.
“Genuine conservatives understand that getting the definition of marriage right is fundamental to preserving society and the larger moral order,” Mohler wrote in a column for World. “Marriage is an ontological reality expressed as a covenant union that demands legal recognition. It is the union of a man and a woman, which Jesus defined as God’s purpose ‘from the beginning.’ Any society that attempts to redefine marriage – even to include same-sex couples – denies the creation-order basis of marriage and subverts the larger society.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.