Biden praised the bipartisan support the bill received in Congress during the ceremony, which passed the House 258 to 169 — with 39 Republicans voting yes.
Only one Republican member of Congress from Texas supported the legislation on final passage, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), breaking with the rest of the state’s GOP delegation. All of them voted ‘no’ with the exception of Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX-8), who is shown as “Not Voting.”
According to the legislative analysis, the newly enacted law repeals all federal laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman and replaces it with new definitions that recognize “any marriage between two individuals that is valid under state law.”
The bill also prohibits states from refusing to recognize marriages from other states, specifically same-sex and interracial marriages, citing the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also includes an enforcement provision that not only allows the U.S. attorney general to enforce the law but creates a private right of enforcement for citizens to file lawsuits in federal district court.
Both of the state’s U.S. senators, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX), voted against the bill. Cruz expressed concern that the bill would subject private institutions to harassment from the IRS as well as open the door to requiring states to recognize polygamous marriages.
The bill was ultimately amended to clarify that the law only applied to marriages between two individuals before it was passed.
Some are still worried that the bill opens the door to infringement of religious liberty.
The First Liberty Institute, a Christian conservative legal organization based in Plano that focuses on religious liberty issues, says the bill still allows for legal harassment of organizations like religious charities.
“The law gives politically vindictive litigants the right to sue religious charities like faith-based child placement agencies or homeless shelters if they disagree with what they think is a religious person’s or organization’s beliefs about marriage,” said Jeremy Dys, the Senior Counsel at First Liberty, in a statement to The Texan. “Maybe 90% of those lawsuits will be meritless and dismissed upon a motion to do so, but no one should have to go to court just because Congress passed a law that punishes the free exercise of religion.”
Motivation for the law was motivated in part by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Thomas suggested that the court should reconsider prior cases dealing with “substantial due process” issues, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which forced all states to recognize same-sex marriage.
Texas still has a constitutional amendment on the books that defines marriage as between “one man and one woman.” Should Obergefell be overturned, Texas’ marriage laws would go back into effect, prohibiting the state from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
However, the new federal law anticipates this scenario by requiring states like Texas to recognize marriages certified in other states.
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Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.