The US Senate has passed a landmark bill to protect same sex marriage.
The House of Representatives is now expected to approve The Respect For Marriage Act and send it to President Biden to sign into law.
It’s being rushed through Congress before Republicans take control of the House in January.
The Senate vote was 61 to 36 after 12 Republican senators supported it.
The bill includes some amendments to protect religious freedoms, but three late amendments to strengthen them were rejected.
It identifies “churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, nondenominational ministries, interdenominational and ecumenical organisations, mission organisations, faith-based social agencies, religious educational institutions, and nonprofit entities whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion, and any employee of such an organisation” as those protected from having to perform same sex marriages or services related to such marriages.
The proposal aims to shore up same sex marriage rights in federal law although such partnerships are still protected nationwide under a prior US Supreme Court ruling.
It will serve as a stopgap if constitutional rights to same sex marriage are diminished or struck down by the Supreme Court.
Democrats feared the same conservative majority of justices on the Supreme Court who took away the right to abortion will target same sex marriage in the future.
Critics of the bill warn it doesn’t go far enough to provide religious liberty protections for Christian business owners who do not work in explicitly faith-based industries.
Law firm Liberty Counsel said it spells doom for those with deeply held beliefs that prevent them from performing secular services that in any way celebrate or affirm same sex marriages — such as bakers, florists and web designers.
Evangelist Franklin Graham said the Respect for Marriage Act is a deceptive smoke-screen that will change the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman while not protecting those who hold a traditional view of marriage.
He says it will impact individual believers, families, businesses, churches and the entire nation.