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US Senate support for Respect for Marriage Act bodes well, local advocates say

While the legislation still needs to pass both chambers of congress, local LGBTQ advocates said these early results are a step forward for marriage equality.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The U.S. Senate could soon pass legislation to protect marriage equality and interracial marriage, taking the next step toward making those rights federal law.

While the Senate won't officially vote on the issue until the end of November, and it still needs to be passed by both chambers of congress before being codified into law, multiple local LGBTQ advocates said these early results bode well for the future.

Equality Toledo Vice Chair Scot Henshaw said in the months following the repeal of Roe V. Wade, there was serious concern in the local LGBTQ community.

"They felt that the next step was going to be their unions, becoming either taken down, taken apart, or the ability to do so being stripped away," Henshaw said.

He said he even saw some of his friends get have same-sex marriages earlier than intended just to ensure that they couldn't lose the ability to do so down the line. And with some in the federal government actively working to ensure that outcome, the University of Toledo Department of Women's and Gender Studies Chair Sharon Barnes said this legislation couldn't come at a better time.

"We need to have human rights enshrined in our laws, and we need to be as expansive and inclusive in our thinking about that," Barnes said.

She said more Americans seem to have become more open-minded to the issue, too. Not only was the legislation supported by every democrat in the U.S. Senate, but 12 republicans also voted to move the bill forward.

"A group of bipartisan senators saying, 'yeah we really see really see our LGBTQIA+ constituents and we really care that they're safe'; I think that's a good sign," said Barnes.

Even if the bill passes in the Senate, its passage into law isn't assured. It will still need to be voted on in the U.S. House, which is currently controlled by democrats but will have a Republican majority next year. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), said her vote is already locked in.

"With the Senate's bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, our nation is taking an important step forward to protect the rights and freedoms of millions of Americans and their families. When the legislation comes before the House, I will strongly support it," Kaptur wrote.

Even if marriage equality is codified, the fight for true LGBTQ equality in Ohio is still far from over, Barnes said.

"We have house bills in the state of Ohio, we have Ohio state school board introducing a resolution that inhibits trans students and nonbinary students, so this is one step forward, but we still have so many to go," she said.

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