Double advance in the United States Congress. The Senate approved on Tuesday a law to shield homosexual marriages, and did so with 12 Republican votes, in addition to 49 Democrats: quite a milestone in these times of polarization, and more so on such a sensitive issue for conservatives.
The regulations can be approved in a few days. Legislators plan to return it to the House of Representatives, for final ratification, next week; that is to say, before, in January, the Republicans assume the majority after the midterm elections that on November 8 they won by the minimum.
The law will enter into force as soon as, hours after that final approval, Joe Biden signs the text in a solemn act together with the bipartisan coalition that has made the project prosper. It will probably be the president's last triumphant act in the first part of his term. "Love is love," Biden proclaimed as soon as the law was voted on in the Upper House. "And Americans," he added, "should have the right to marry the person they love."
The new norm, the result of a complex negotiation with different transactions between progressives and conservatives, will definitively repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples by defining the marriage bond as a legal union between a man and a woman. Said text was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013, but its full annulment will prevent the highest judicial body, with a conservative majority, from being able to rescue it.
In fact, the law agreed upon and voted on Tuesday in the Senate stems from the alarm unleashed in Congress, and throughout the United States, when Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in June that the High Court "should reconsider" the precedent it establishes equality in marriage, among others (he also cited access to contraception). Thomas, who introduced that opinion in the judgment annulling the right to abortion, was referring to the doctrine established in 2015 in the Obergefell vs. Hodges, which enshrined the right of people of the same sex to marry: a right that, by virtue of the pact in Congress, will be protected when it becomes law.
The new legislation will not prevent any state from outlawing gay alliances within its territory, but it will prohibit it from denying the validity of a homosexual marriage contracted in any other state.
At the request of the Republicans, a provision of the law will guarantee that religious organizations can refuse to recognize these links or to provide services and resources for their consecration, without losing their tax benefits as non-profit entities.
Those responsible for the bipartisan pact made emotional speeches. "In these turbulent times for our nation, we do well to take this step," said Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis. “We are talking about our relatives, our neighbours, our co-workers and our friends,” added Susan Collins, also a Conservative MP.
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer choked back tears as he recalled how his daughter, who is married to another woman and expecting a baby, lived in fear that their union would be annulled. “I now hope that you will raise your son with all the love and security that every child deserves,” he said.
The project was approved by 61 votes in favor, 36 against and three abstentions, including that of Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock for being in the campaign for the runoff vote in the race for his seat representing Georgia
According to the National Census Bureau, there are 1.2 million households inhabited by same-sex couples in the United States. Of these, some 710,000 are married and around 500,000 have not legalized their situation.
The new law makes history at a time of little progress and plenty of setbacks, in the country and in much of the world.