WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – Sen. Thom Tillis is saying his bipartisan group has settled on an amendment to the federal Respect for Marriage Act that would codify the right of same-sex and interracial couples to marry as long as that is legal in a given state.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) speaks in a debate in 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, Pool)

Tillis, North Carolina’s senior Republican Senator, had been working on this concept with Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), he said in a release.

The amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act is narrow, but the release says it would accomplish two primary goals:

  • 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.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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 release said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (Nexstar)

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.

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.

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

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a needed step to provide millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages the certainty that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages,” the group of senators said in a statement. “Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language to confirm that this legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality.

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

“We look forward to this legislation coming to the floor and are confident that this amendment has helped earn the broad, bipartisan support needed to pass our commonsense legislation into law.”

The bill requires the support of 10 GOP senators to avoid a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he would bring up the bill “in coming weeks,” CNN reported. A social media comment by The News & Observer in Raleigh said the vote could happen as soon as Wednesday. The group has said it believes it has those votes.

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

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), 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.”