Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., center, joins Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, to talks about Democrat efforts to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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As we’ve written before, federal legislation to protect marriage equality should not be necessary. But, after the Supreme Court overturned nearly a half century of legal protections for reproductive health choices, it is clear that what are thought to be fundamental rights can evaporate. Plus, some conservatives have suggested that previous rulings that protect the rights to marry the person of your choosing should be reconsidered.

Given this political reality, a bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriages should quickly move through the U.S. Senate.

Votes are scheduled this week on the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act, which would require that federal law recognize any marriage that was valid when and where it was performed. The bill has been championed by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin. Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were also involved in negotiating a compromise bill. It is also supported by Maine independent Sen. Angus King.

Similar legislation passed the House in July, with 47 Republicans voting for it.

The senators say they are confident they have the support of 10 Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a needed step to provide millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages the certainty that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages,” the five senators involved in building support for the bill said in a press release on Tuesday. “Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language to confirm that this legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality.”

An amended version of the bill does not require a state to issue a marriage license that is counter to its laws and says that religious organizations will not be required to provide any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.

These religious liberty protections were added to gain the support of more Republicans in the Senate in hopes of easing passage of the bill.

The legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. That law was rendered moot by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, when the court ruled that marriage equality was protected by the U.S. Constitution, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. However, DOMA has remained on the books and could potentially be revived if it is not repealed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the legislation “as personal as it gets,” before sharing that his daughter and her wife are expecting a baby in February.

“It will do so much good for so many people who want nothing more than to live their lives without the fear of discrimination,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

And, although fundamental rights should not be about popularity, Americans have grown more supportive of marriage equality over the past 30 years. More than 70 percent of Americans support marriage equality, including 55 percent of Republicans, according to a recent Gallup poll.

“It is time for the Senate to get the job done and pass this bill to protect marriage equality and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally under the law,” Collins and Baldwin wrote in a column published in the Washington Post in July.

We agree; the Senate should pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...