Respect for Marriage Act splits Colorado delegation on party lines in final vote

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Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives celebrate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act at a bill enrollment ceremony on Dec. 8, 2022.

Updated 1:38 p.m.

A bill that offers federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk. The House passed the amended Respect for Marriage Act 258-169 on Thursday.

While there was bipartisan support for the bill, with 39 House Republicans voting in favor, the Colorado congressional delegation split along party lines.

Democratic Reps. Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter all voted for the bill. Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn voted against it.

Speaking on the House floor, Crow said the bill ensures critical protections.

"Today, we have the opportunity to protect all Americans, regardless of how they identify or whom they love," he said.

While the bill does not mandate all states to legalize same-sex marriage, it would require them to recognize any legal marriages performed elsewhere. It also included religious liberty protections, although it did not go far enough to satisfy some conservative lawmakers.

“I think it’s a good amendment and it is a step in the right direction, but it’s not broad enough,” said GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn, explaining his no vote. He’s concerned that churches and other religious organizations could be sued for “standing up for the legitimately held and sincerely held beliefs concerning the nature of marriage.”

"The Supreme Court clearly stated in Dobbs that marriage is a settled issue. I believe them," Buck said in a statement. "This is unnecessary legislation and I think Congress's time would be better spent focusing on issues that impact working families across our districts."

In addition to protecting same-sex marriages, the bill also safeguards the legality of interracial marriages.

In talking about his support for the bill, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer referenced the Club Q shooting and the story of one of the wounded, Anthony, who has talked about thinking about his husband Jeremy during the attack.

“I rise today for the millions of people like Anthony and Jeremy, who deserve to continue living proudly and happily and safely in same-sex and interracial marriages.

The House moved quickly on the issue of same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June. As part of that ruling, a concurring opinion by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court should revisit past decisions on contraception and same-sex marriage that are also rooted in a right to privacy. 

The House first passed the bill in July, with the Colorado delegation again split along party lines; at that time 47 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats to pass the bill.

The Senate negotiations on the bill went months, with religious protections added in to gain critical votes, and passed last week. Both Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper supported the bill. Twelve Republican senators also voted yes.

In praising the passage of the bill, Democratic Rep. Neguse, highlighted Colorado's long support for same-sex marriage. He noted that Boulder County's former County Clerk, Clela Rorex, made history in 1975 by being the first county clerk in the country to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

"Today's vote honored Clela’s legacy and reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring that every American can live and marry free from discrimination," he said in a statement.