Murkowski and Sullivan among 12 Republican senators voting to advance same-sex marriage protections

WASHINGTON — A bill providing federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages advanced Wednesday in the Senate with Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan’s support.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which on Wednesday passed a key procedural Senate vote 62 to 37, would require the federal government and states to recognize valid marriage licenses regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.” In addition to Murkowski and Sullivan, 10 other GOP senators joined Democrats in advancing the bill. The Senate will vote on the bill’s final passage as early as this week.

A congressional push for the bill began over the summer after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking federal abortion protections. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas signaled an appetite to similarly revisit Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects same-sex marriage

Sullivan said in a statement that the bill was “unnecessary” because of Obergefell v. Hodges. Sullivan spokesperson Ben Dieterich said the senator pushed to include language in the bill that would mean religious organizations aren’t required to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies, and language that it doesn’t impact current religious liberty or conscience protections.

“While I’ve long held that marriage should be an issue left up to the states, the Supreme Court nationalized the issue in Obergefell. I said then that I would respect the Court’s decision, but would also continue to fight for and respect and defend the religious liberty of all Americans,” Sullivan said in a statement. “This bill makes important advances in doing that.”

Murkowski, a political moderate who has advocated for policies supporting marriage equality, said that the bill will protect the marriages of “countless couples.”

“I have long supported marriage equality and believe all lawful marriages deserve respect,” Murkowski wrote. “I thank my colleagues who improved the bill’s protections for religious liberty and continued prohibitions on polygamy, allowing it to move forward this week. All Americans deserve dignity, respect, and equal protection under the law.”


A bipartisan group of senators, which did not include Sullivan or Murkowski, announced Monday that they drafted an amendment with additional religious liberty protections. The amendment “fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality,” the senators’ statement said.

The House of Representatives handily passed the Respect for Marriage Act in July before Alaska Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola was elected. Josh Wilson, a Peltola spokesman, did not say whether the representative would have voted for the bill in July, but said she is supportive of families “making their own decisions when it comes to marriage.”

“During her campaign she labeled herself Pro-Fish, Pro-Family, Pro-Freedom,” Wilson in a statement. “Her voting record will continue to respect those values both during the lame duck and in the next two year term, pending final election results.”

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Reporter Riley Rogerson is a full-time reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C. Her position is supported by Report for America, which is working to fill gaps in reporting across the country and to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations. Report for America, funded by both private and public donors, covers up to 50% of a reporter’s salary. It’s up to ADN to find the other half, through local community donors, benefactors, grants or other fundraising activities.

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Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.