WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – No matter if you are married to someone of the same sex or a different race, there now is a law to support your right to that union.

The U.S. House on Thursday passed the Respect For Marriage Act that included a religious-freedom amendment Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina helped to broker and sent it to the desk of President Joe Biden, who said he would sign it quickly.

In this image from House Television, the vote total with final passage of the bill with protections for same-sex marriages is shown, on the House Floor, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. The bipartisan legislation, which passed 258-169, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” (Senate Television via AP)

But Tillis – and the vote of retiring Republican Senator Richard Burr – apparently didn’t inspire the Republicans representing North Carolina in the House, who accounted for eight of the 169 who cast nay votes during the roll call.

The bill passed, 258-169, with one “present” vote, but that represented a decline of eight Republican votes from the 47 who had supported the original bill last July. This time, 39 GOP representatives supported a bill that codifies same-sex and interracial marriage.

Those nays include 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), who last month was chosen to succeed Burr in the Senate, and the rest of those elected to serve the Piedmont Triad: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) of the 5th District, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Moore County), who in January will represent the 9th District, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), who will represent the 8th, and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Statesville), whose 10th District currently includes some of the region.

Rep. Ted Budd (R-Adavance)
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro)

Recently re-elected U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) of the 6th District and her five Democratic colleagues were celebrating the new law, which will head to the desk of President Joe Biden, who said he would sign it quickly.

“The right to marry the person you love was established by the Supreme Court in 1967 with Loving v. Virginia and again in 2015 with Obergefell v. Hodges,” Manning said in a statement released by her staff. “The precedents set by these decisions have established civil rights that millions of families depend on, and they are overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Americans. We cannot allow the whim of a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court to overrule them.

“The Respect for Marriage Act makes progress by requiring states and the federal government to continue recognizing interracial and same-sex marriages, even if the current judicial precedent is overturned in the future. As we celebrate this victory, we must continue fighting for legislation that codifies every American’s right to marry who they love in all fifty states.”

In this image from House Television, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., announces final passage of the bill with protections for same-sex marriages, on the House Floor on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. The bipartisan legislation, which passed 258-169, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”(Senate Television via AP)

Budd’s spokesperson, Jonathan Felts, declined to comment on the vote to the Charlotte Observer. None of the other GOP reps issued a statement or posted on social media about the vote.

“History made,” 2nd District Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Raleigh) tweeted. “Today, we worked across party lines to reject hate and protect marriage equality across the country. We are stronger as a nation when every American is free to marry the person they love.”

Why the bill

The bill – and the amendment – emerged because of fear generated by an opinion written by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Thomas’ remarks specifically mentioned Obergefell v. Hodges, the court’s decision in 2015 that required states to license same-sex couples for marriage under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

The amendment

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) (R), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) walk through the Senate subway at the US Capitol on July 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has lost his majority in his bid to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, as several Republican Senators have said they will vote no. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Sen. Thom Tillis (left) and retiring Sen. Richard Burr, both Republicans, voted for the Senate’s version of the Respect for Marriage Act. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Tillis, who had said in the summer that he “probably” would support the marriage bill passed by the House, developed the amendment in conjunction with Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) to establish protections for religious groups.

Although his amendment had the support of some of those groups, other conservatives argued the bill violated biblical principal and was unnecessary.

“The House bill had a number of flaws I wouldn’t have supported,” Tillis said before the vote in the Senate. “We needed to clean up the language and address religious freedoms with language that protect religious institutions.”

He repeated various versions of that reasoning but also said his goal was to protect the “over a million who have same-sex marriages or civil unions” by providing “certainty as they move through the nation.”

This amendment, which passed the Senate, 61-36, with 12 Republicans voting for it, ensures “religious-affiliated institutions are still able to preserve their faith they have for centuries,” would protect religious liberty under the Constitution and would not require nonprofit religious organizations to perform marriages for people who don’t meet their standards, the group’s release said.

The amendment also specified that this bill can’t be used to deny rights and would not affect a church or religious group’s nonprofit status.

The bill “affirms that couples, including same-sex and interracial couples, deserve the dignity, stability, and ongoing protection of marriage,” the release said. The bill does not legalize polygamy.