WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – The U.S. Senate’s version of the Respect for Marriage Act, advocated by a bipartisan group that includes North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, passed its first test on Wednesday.

By a vote of 62-37, the Respect for Marriage Act. which would codify same-sex and interracial marriages, cleared the 60-vote hurdle to merit consideration by the full Senate without the threat of filibuster.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., center, joins Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, to talks about Democrat efforts to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Tillis and retiring Sen. Richard Burr were among the 12 Republicans to vote for the bill. When a final vote might occur is uncertain – maybe not until after the Thanksgiving break – but members of the core group that had worked on the bill said they were optimistic of gaining even more support.

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 (R-N.C., left) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Tillis did not comment immediately following the vote, but he scheduled a virtual media briefing for Thursday morning.

Earlier this week he and fellow senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) announced an amendment to the bill that would clarify the rights of religious groups, including:

  • Require the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed.
  • Guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity or national origin, but the bill would not require a state to issue a marriage license contrary to state law.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (Nexstar)

“Today, the Senate is taking a truly bold step forward in the march toward greater justice, greater equality, by advancing the Respect for Marriage Act,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech from the Senate floor before the vote on Wednesday. “It’s a simple, narrowly tailored but exceedingly important piece of legislation that will do so much good for so many Americans. It will make our country a better, fairer place to live.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) (Ting Shen/Pool Photo via AP, File)

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support in July, largely because of fear generated by the opinion of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Tillis said at the time he “probably” would support the House’s bill.

The amendment that Tillis and his colleagues developed 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. It also specifies that this bill can’t be used to deny rights and would not affect a church or religious group’s nonprofit status.

Kyrsten Sinema
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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

When the bill passed the House, the Republicans who represent North Carolina were not among its 47 GOP supporters. That includes the five Republicans who represent – or will represent – the 14 counties of the Piedmont Triad: 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk), 8th District Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Moore County) and 10th District Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Statesville).

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte)
Rep. Ted Budd (R-Adavance)

Only Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), elected last week to represent the 8th Congressional District that includes Davidson and Montgomery counties, addressed that vote, calling the bill “an attack on Americans who hold the view that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), who last week was elected to join Tillis in the Senate as the successor for retiring Sen. Richard Burr, voted against the bill, too.

Budd is developing his staff and structure for the new role, and his spokesperson did not respond immediately to questions about Tillis’ amendment.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro)

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), who was re-elected to represent the 6th District, which includes Guilford Rockingham counties and some of Caswell and Forsyth counties, and who supported the bill in the House, released a statement on Tuesday about the news of Tillis’ amendment.

“The right to marry the person you love, established by the Supreme Court and supported by people across this country, should not be threatened on the whim of a new Supreme Court,” Manning said in a note delivered by her spokesperson to WGHP. “We must codify marriage equality immediately, and I applaud my Senate colleagues for their leadership and urge Congress to get this done swiftly.”