U.S. Senate passes same-sex marriage protection bill

STORY: The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Tuesday protecting same-sex marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government to recognize a union if it was legal in the state in which it was performed.

The bill passed 61 to 36, with 60 votes needed for passage.

The narrowly tailored bill is meant to be a backstop against the Supreme Court over fears it could overturn a 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill was deeply personal for him.

"Today, the long but inexorable march towards greater equality advances forward. By passing this bill, the Senate is sending a message to every American that... sending a message that every American needs to hear. No matter who you are, or who you love, you deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law. As the chamber knows, this is personal to me, and the first people I will call when this bill passes are my daughter and her wife."

The new Senate measure does not, however, bar states from blocking same-sex or interracial marriages if the Supreme Court allowed them to do so.

The currently Democrat-led House still also needs to approve this bill before it's sent to President Joe Biden and signed into law-

-and Republicans will control that chamber of Congress next year.

Same-sex marriage has been thought to be under threat since June when the now conservative-dominated supreme court undid 50 years of precedent and struck down the right to abortion.

In a concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court should consider reversing other decisions protecting individual freedoms.

About 568,000 married same-sex couples live in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.