WASHINGTON — The Senate will begin debate this week on legislation protecting same-sex marriage, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, after the bill’s sponsors made changes aimed at drawing enough Republican votes to win passage.
The first procedural vote will be Wednesday on “an extremely important and much-needed bill,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday on the Senate floor. “No American should ever be discriminated against because of who they love. Passing this bill would secure much-needed safeguards into federal law.”
The legislation would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That law defined marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman and was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill would give federal recognition to same-sex and interracial marriages and require interstate recognition of marriages. States could still refuse to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
Negotiators said Monday they reached an agreement on an amendment designed to build more GOP support for the bill. The new language ensures the bill will not diminish religious and conscience protections unrelated to marriage. It also clarifies the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages.
All Senate Democrats support the bill, but it would need at least 10 GOP votes to get the 60 needed to advance under Senate rules. A handful of Senate Republicans — including Rob Portman of Ohio and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — have said they’re on board and others are expected to join them.
The House in July approved similar same-sex marriage legislation on a bipartisan 267-157 vote. The House will have to vote again if the religious freedom amendment is included by the Senate.