PORTLAND, Maine — A bill aimed at protecting same-sex and interracial marriages is awaiting President Joe Biden's signature after it passed the House with bipartisan support on Thursday morning.
The bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, passed through the House 258 to 169, with 39 Republicans joining Democrats (who voted for the legislation unanimously).
The bill passed the Senate in November with 12 Republicans on board, including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who pushed for the bill's passage.
"This bill will truly make a difference to the lives of so many American families and that's why it matters," Collins said.
The bill will ensure that even if SCOTUS overturns protections for same-sex or interracial marriages, federal law will still protect those marriages.
The bill, once signed by Biden, will mean that if you live in a state that has restrictions on same-sex marriages, you can get married in a state that does allow same-sex marriage, return to your original state, and have your marriage be legal.
"Not just from the Supreme Court, but in law. I think those rights are important," Gia Drew, the executive director of Equality Maine said. "It wasn't only Democrats in the mix. I think it sends a message that these folks want to work on laws that protect LGBTQ+ people."
While speaking at the bill's enrollment, Collins thanked her Republican colleagues that voted for the bill and thanked religious institutions for their support.
"We've proven it's not about LGBTQ+ rights versus rights for churches, mosques, and synagogues. We can help both," Collins said.
For Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Portland's Temple Beth El, she said her Jewish faith makes her inclusive to same-sex and interracial marriages.
"We believe in the dignity of each person," Braun said. "Religion teaches us to love humanity. I believe there is one God, and we all have different ways of approaching this God. I think that's what we practice here, and that is what religion is all about, and it's about being inclusive and honoring God's creatures."
For local organizations like Quinn Gormley at Maine Transgender Network, this is a good move for protecting marriages, but they want to see more protections against discrimination toward LGBTQ+ people.
"Although marriage is vital and important, it doesn't do any good if you can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday," Gormley said.
Gormley said she hopes Collins can revisit her lack of support for a bill last year that would have protected LGBTQ+ people against discrimination.
The bill stalled in the Senate in 2021 and has not been reintroduced.
A spokesperson for Collins said there are currently no plans to bring it back for a read.
For Sue Campbell of OUT Maine, which represents LGBTQ+ youth, the
Respect for Marriage Act proves to young people that change can happen. But more needs to be done to protect against the targeting of LGBTQ-friendly material in schools.
"It's alarming what is happening with our youth, and the more we can ensure the rights of our youth and adults remain in place, the better," Campbell said.