How same-sex marriage gained bipartisan support – a decadeslong process has brought it close to being written into federal law

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. Senate voted on Nov. 16, 2022, to initiate debate on legislation that would protect same-sex and interracial marriage, making it legal regardless of where these couples live and what state laws determine.

Senators voted 62-37 to move forward on a final vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats in their support for the bill.

The legislation would also repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman.

The U.S. House of Representatives already 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.

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.