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US lawmakers pass bill protecting same-sex marriage in landmark ruling

origin 1House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signs the Respect For Marriage Act with other members of Congress. © AP

The US House of Representatives has given final approval to legislation protecting same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decade-long battle for nationwide recognition that reflects a stark reversal in societal attitudes.

President Joe Biden has said he will promptly sign the bill requiring all states to recognize same-sex marriages. It comes as a relief to hundreds of thousands of couples who married after the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing those marriages and worried about what would happen if the current court overturned the ruling.

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In a statement following the vote, Biden called the legislation a “critical step in ensuring that Americans have the right to marry the one they love.” She said the legislation offers “hope and dignity to millions of young people across the country who can thrive knowing their government will recognize and respect the families they build.”

The legislation would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “gender, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Democrats quickly passed the bill in the House and Senate after the Supreme Court decision in June that struck down federal abortion rights. And after Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion on the case suggested the court might also reconsider its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

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While many Republicans predicted this was unlikely to happen and said the bill was unnecessary, Democrats and GOP supporters of the bill said it should not be left to chance.

“We need it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presided over the vote as one of her latest acts of leadership before stepping aside in January. “It’s magic.”

The bill is “a glorious triumph of love and freedom,” Pelosi said, weeping as she celebrated its passage.

The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as Obergefell does now. But it would require states to recognize all marriages legal where they occurred and protect current same-sex unions if the Supreme Court overturned its decision.