The Senate had voted 62-37 in mid-November to end debate on the bill by reaching the required 60-vote threshold. Twelve Republicans crossed the aisle to join all the Senate’s Democrats in that vote, and the same number joined in the Nov. 29 vote.
The final version of the bill includes a bipartisan amendment meant to ensure that nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage. It also provides for individual conscience protections to the extent provided under the Constitution and federal law, and makes clear the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriage.
DOMA, which the present bill would repeal, is a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage federally as the union of a man and a woman, reserved federal benefits to heterosexual couples, and permitted states not to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. DOMA was already effectively nullified by the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
The Catholic bishops of the United States had urged Senators in July to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act, expressing concerns about the bill’s effect on the religious freedom of those who hold to a traditional definition of marriage.
And in November, following the bill’s advancement in the U.S. Senate, the nation’s Catholic bishops reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage. They also reiterated their concerns that “the legislation could lead to discrimination against individuals who hold to a traditional view of marriage.”
“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a Nov. 17 statement.
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