Congress is considering making same-sex marriage federal law – a political scientist explains how this issue became less polarized over time

While public opinion and different state laws on abortion rights are sharply dividing the country, there’s growing indication that most people agree on another once-controversial topic – protecting same-sex marriage.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on July 19, 2022, to enshrine same-sex marriage into law with a bipartisan vote – all 220 Democratic representatives voted in favor, joined by 47 Republican colleagues.

The Respect for Marriage Act, as it is called, would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman.

The bill faces an uncertain fate in the closely divided Senate – so far, five Republicans out of 50 have said they would vote for it. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the Senate will vote on the bill once it has 10 Republican votes.

I am a scholar of political behavior and history in the U.S. I believe that it’s important to understand that the bipartisan support for this bill marks a significant political transformation on same-sex marriage, which was used as a contentious point separating Democrats and Republicans roughly 15 to 20 years ago.

But over the past several years, same-sex marriage has become less politically divisive and gained more public approval, driven in part by former President Donald Trump’s general acceptance of the practice. This environment made it politically safe for nearly a quarter of Republican House members to vote to protect this right under federal law.

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