A bill protecting same-sex marriages cleared a major hurdle in the US Senate on Wednesday, with rare bipartisan support, as Democrats scrambled to secure a legal framework to protect such marriages while still retaining control of Congress.
And 12 Republicans voted with all Democrats to move forward with this legislation, as it requires that the controversial bill receive 60 “yes” votes to put it to a vote before the full house.
The final vote is expected as soon as this week, or later this month.
Democrats retained control of the Senate by a very small margin in last week’s midterm elections, while Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, albeit with a slim majority.
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The division foreshadows a legislative deadlock when Congress is sworn in in January.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has guaranteed same-sex marriage since 2015.
But after the Supreme Court overturned this year the landmark ruling allowing abortion, many progressive lawmakers fear same-sex marriage law could suffer the same fate.
In mid-July, the House of Representatives passed a law to protect such marriages nationwide. All House Democrats and 47 Republicans supported the bill, but nearly 160 Republicans opposed it.
If the bill passes the Senate, it must return to the House of Representatives for final approval.
“Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” Biden said in a statement pledging to sign the bill as soon as it passes.
“Today’s bipartisan vote brings the United States one step closer to protecting that right in law,” he added.
The bill passed Wednesday does not oblige states to legalize same-sex marriage, but obliges them to recognize same-sex marriage if it takes place in other states.
So if the Supreme Court overturns the 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, states that ban it will be forced to recognize it.
Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, but the issue remains controversial.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wields huge influence in his party, voted against the bill.