Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the first procedural vote on the Respect for Marriage Act. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Today, the Senate has a chance to live up to its highest ideals by taking up legislation that will protect the rights of all Americans regardless of who they choose to marry.
In many ways, the story of America has been a difficult but inexorable march towards greater equality for all people. Throughout our history, sometimes we’ve taken important steps forward. Other times, unfortunately, we’ve taken steps backwards.
But today, the Senate is taking a truly bold step forward in the march towards greater justice, greater equality, by advancing the Respect for Marriage Act. 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.
Passing this bill is as personal as it gets for so many of us in this chamber, myself included. My daughter and her wife—my daughter in law—are expecting a baby next spring, and I want to do everything possible to make sure their rights are protected under federal law. I want them, and everyone in a loving relationship, to live without the fear that their rights could one day be stripped way. So there are many of us who are deeply invested in seeing this bill succeed.
Originally, it was our intention to take action on the Respect for Marriage Act back in September, fresh off the House’s strong bipartisan vote from the summer. Remember: forty-seven House Republicans joined Democrats to pass this bill.
But at the urging of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, I agreed to hold off on scheduling a vote in order to make sure we had enough support to move forward. My job, at the end of the day, will always be to prioritize getting things passed through this chamber, and marriage equality is too important an issue to risk failure. So I made the choice to trust the members who have worked so hard on this legislation and wait a little bit longer, in order to give the bipartisan process a chance to play out. Much better to pass this legislation and move equality forward than simply have a show vote which would bring political reckoning but no real change for the American people.
I want to thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who’ve led the charge in getting this bill ready for the floor and hopefully soon on to the President’s desk, including our two leaders on our side, Senators Baldwin and Sinema, who have done a fabulous job and have worked this bill so hard and so well and so consistently. I want to thank Senators Portman and Tillis and Collins, on the other side, who were part of this bipartisan team. They’ve managed this process stupendously and I am optimistic their efforts will prove successful later today.
To the rest of my colleagues—and to all Americans who are watching what the Senate does—this is a great chance to do something very important for tens of millions of Americans.
No one – no one – in a same sex marriage should have to worry about whether or not their marriage will be invalidated in the future. They deserve peace of mind knowing their rights will always be protected under the law. With this bill, we can take a significant and much needed step in that direction.
The majority of Americans support us in this endeavor. They’re joined not only by hundreds of major American companies who support this bill but also religious organizations who affirm that the Respect for Marriage Act is a sound and a commonsense piece of legislation.
So if both parties can come together, today could be one of the true highlights of the year for this body. This has been an incredibly productive year in Congress, full of many significant achievements—but I think that passing the Respect for Marriage Act would be one of the more significant accomplishments of this Senate to date. And like so many other bills this year, it will be an unequivocal bipartisan win.
So I urge my colleagues: think about those who you know and love who are in a same sex marriage. Maybe it’s your friends, maybe it’s your family, maybe it’s someone on your staff. I hope, with them in your heart, you will support this bill. There is every reason under the sun to move forward and begin debating this important legislation.
For the sake of ensuring equal justice under law;
For the sake of millions of married couples who want to live their lives without discrimination;
And for the sake of every person out there—young and old alike--who wonder if they too deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity and basic decency;
I strongly urge my colleagues to vote yes on moving forward with the Respect for Marriage Act later today.