By LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate unexpectedly launched a new push Wednesday to protect same-sex marriage in federal law after a surprising number of Republicans helped pass landmark legislation in the House. Some GOP senators are already signaling support.
The legislation started as an election-season political effort to confront the new Supreme Court majority after the court overturned abortion access in Roe v. Wade, raising concerns that other rights were at risk. But suddenly it has a shot at becoming law. Pressure is mounting on Republicans to drop their longstanding opposition and join in a bipartisan moment for gay rights.
“This legislation was so important,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as he opened the chamber Wednesday.
The Democratic leader marveled over the House’s 267-157 tally, with 47 Republicans — almost one-fifth of the GOP lawmakers — voting for the bill late Tuesday.
“I want to bring this bill to the floor,” Schumer said, “and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.”
Political odds are still long for the legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine same-sex and interracial marriages as protected under federal law. Conservatives, including House GOP leaders, largely opposed the bill, and the vast majority of Republicans voted against it.
But in a sign of shifting political attitudes and a need for an election-year win, some Republicans are signaling there may be an opening. Few Republicans spoke directly against gay marriage during Tuesday’s floor debate in the House. And Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was notably silent when asked about the bill, saying he would take a look if it comes to the Senate.
“I’m going to delay announcing anything on that issue,” McConnell said, adding he would wait to see if Schumer brings it forward.
President Joe Biden wants Congress to send him the bill to sign as soon as possible.
“This is something that’s personal to the president,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with the president.
Biden is “a proud champion of the right for people to marry whom they love and is grateful to see bipartisan support for that right,” she said. “He believes it is non-negotiable and that the Senate should act swiftly to get this to the president’s desk. He wants to sign it, so we need this legislation and we urge Congress to move as quickly as possible.”