The Senate just passed historic protections for same-sex marriage

The Senate passed historic federal protections for same-sex marriage, sending a powerful message about the progress the country has made on the issue. 

The legislation — which guarantees recognition of same-sex marriages across state lines and by the federal government — advanced in the upper chamber, picking up support from 61 senators, including 12 Republicans. The vote is significant, marking the first time that the chamber has passed a bill to affirm marriage equality. 

It underscores, too, how much Congress has shifted on the subject: Since 2009, legislation intended to protect same-sex marriage has stalled in the Senate due to a lack of momentum and opposition from both parties. The broad base of support for this bill is also notable because of how divided Congress has been on establishing protections for other rights including abortion rights and voting rights. 

The legislation, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, now heads back to the House, which is expected to pass it. Once enacted, it would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and it would force states to recognize same-sex marriages and interracial marriages even if they sought to limit them. Additionally, the bill seeks to preempt any action the Supreme Court may take on precedents like Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the right to same-sex marriage in 2015.