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Raisi: US acknowledges failure to stop Iran’s oil exports

Raisi called for vigilance against those who seek to sow discord in the Iranian society and have targeted Iranians’ faith and belief…reports Asian Lite News

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said that the US anger at Iran is due to the fact that Washington has failed to stop Iran’s oil exports through sanctions, reported the official news agency IRNA.

In a speech during a visit to the Robat Karim County in Tehran Province, Raisi on Thursday added that “the enemy,” referring to the US which has imposed “draconian sanctions” on Iran, is currently acknowledging that its embargoes have ended in “abject failure”.

The President also said that Iran’s enemies also acknowledge that Iran is a leading country in many areas, adding that is another reason why they are angry, Xinhua news agency reported.

He vowed that the Iranian nation would not let the enemies threaten the Islamic republic’s independence and freedom.

He stressed that the Iranian people, who achieved freedom following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, would not be deceived by the enemies’ “slogan of freedom”.

Raisi called for vigilance against those who seek to sow discord in the Iranian society and have targeted Iranians’ faith and belief.

In May 2018, the US reimposed its unilateral sanctions on Iran following its withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The sanctions aim to totally ban Iran’s crude oil exports to force it into hammering out a new nuclear agreement on the US terms.

‘Unrestrained’ weapons delivery

The Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that the “unrestrained” delivery of American and European weapons to Ukraine has further complicated the situation in the country.

Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks in a phone call with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto on Thursday, in which the two sides also discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments in Iran.

The Iranian top diplomat also voiced Iran’s opposition to the continuation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Xinhua news agency reported.

Pointing to the Tehran visit by the Finnish Foreign Minister earlier in February, Amir-Abdollahian said the relations between the two countries are on the right track.

The Iranian Minister also briefed Haavisto on the latest developments in the talks on the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

For his part, Haavisto expressed his country’s support for the restoration of JCPOA, while thanking his Iranian counterpart for informing him of the latest developments in the talks.

Ukraine and Western countries have recently accused Iran of exporting suicide drones to Russia for use in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Iran has repeatedly rejected the allegations as “baseless,” saying it has sent no weapon to any of the warring parties.

ALSO READ: Biden backs bill to speed up immigration by Indians

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US House passes bill protecting same-sex marriage

The House vote was 258 to 169 with 39 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the legislation…reports Asian Lite News

The US House on Thursday approved legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriage. The bill has been sent to US President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature so that it becomes law, CNN reported.

The House vote was 258 to 169 with 39 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the legislation. The House’s vote for the ‘Respect for Marriage Act,’ comes after the Senate passed the same bill last week by a vote of 61-36, as per the CNN report. During the voting in the Senate, all the members of the Senate Democratic caucus and 12 Republicans voted in favour of the bill. In a speech on the Floor of the House, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “I rise today in strong support for the Respect of Marriage Act, a historic step forward in Democrats’ fight to defend the dignity and equality of every American.” She called on lawmakers to support the bill and uphold the inviolability of same-sex marriage and interracial marriages.

Nancy Pelosi stated, “We must act now on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to combat bigoted extremism and uphold the inviolability of same-sex and interracial marriages. Once signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will help prevent right-wing extremists from upending the lives of loving couples, traumatizing kids across the country and turning back the clock on hard-work progress.”

Furthermore, Pelosi stressed that the legislation will take measures to uphold marriage equality under federal law. She further said, “Today, we stand up for the values the vast majority of Americans hold dear, a belief in the dignity, beauty and divinity, spark of divinity, in every person and abiding respect for love so powerful that it binds two people together.”

Notably, the bill will not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same-sex marriage. However, individual states will recognise another state’s legal marriage. The vote on legislation protecting same-sex marriage gained attention in the United States after the Supreme Court earlier this year overturned the Roe v. Wade decision.

Earlier in June, The Supreme Court said that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. When Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, Justice Clarence Thomas urged the court to reconsider the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that recognised same-sex marriage. (ANI)

Defence funding bill sent to Senate

The US House of Representatives has passed the annual defence authorization bill.

The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) — worth $847 billion — now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The NDAA includes a topline of $817 billion for the Pentagon and about $30 billion to fund nuclear activities overseen by the US Department of Energy, Xinhua news agency reported.

The US has been heavily criticised for hefty spending on military activities.

In 2021, the US military spending represented nearly 40 per cent of the world’s total, more than the next nine countries combined.

Andrew Lautz, Director of federal policy for the National Taxpayers Union, a US taxpayer advocacy organisation, published an analysis on Wednesday, writing that “Congress is rushing to pass the NDAA over the next week or two, before they go home for the holidays.”

“Christmas will come early for the nation’s military brass, who often get to spend without consequences from lawmakers who control their purse strings, and defence contractors, who benefit mightily from the taxpayer-funded largesse,” Lautz complained.

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Democrats corner Republicans on Capitol riots

Democrat Adam Schiff said that “facts support” indicting Trump but didn’t name specific charges. The committee is still weighing potential criminal referrals to the Justice Department…writes TN Ashok

The Democrats have preempted Republicans short-lived euphoria on retaking the House by declaring that the party would release the final report of the Jan 6 Congressional Panel headed by Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney on the alleged involvement of former President Donald Trump in inciting right wing extremists such as oath keepers and proud boys to invade the Congress building to hold up the election certification process in 2021.

The Republicans, thrilled over their victory in retaking the House of Representatives from the Democrats at 222 to 213, albeit a thin majority, began issuing threats that they would scrap all the panels probing Trump, but the Georgia runoff between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker would deliver a deathly blow on their plans.

The Democrats secured a clear majority in the Senate with 51 to 49 and Vice President on their side with the tie-breaking advantage, giving them enough powers to ensure existing panels are not scrapped and also powers to appoint judges and top-level bureaucrats in various positions in the government, media reports said.

Democrat Adam Schiff said that “facts support” indicting Trump but didn’t name specific charges. The committee is still weighing potential criminal referrals to the Justice Department.

The California Democrat said that facts gathered by the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack support indictment of former President Donald Trump. Schiff, who is himself a member of the committee, made the comments in an interview with NPR.

The Jan 6 panel faces dissolution by the year end and it is highly unlikely that it will be renewed by a Republican dominated House that will sit in January 2023. Their final report is therefore expected sometime this month, and sources told the NBC news that it could be released on December 21.

The publication of the report would create uncertainties for all the people who have sought preemptive pardons from Donald Trump after the Capitol riots, as per January 6 committee witnesses. At least nine people close to Trump reportedly requested preemptive pardons following the Jan 6 riots.

Former Trump aides named six GOP lawmakers in their testimonies before the Jan 6 panel.

A former aide also said that Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani asked the then President for pardons.

At least six Republican members of Congress requested preemptive pardons from Trump in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, according to testimony from former Trump aides last Thursday.

The Congressional panel investigating the Jan 6 riots hosted six public hearings since it began its hearings and its findings include public damning testimony from former staffers in the Trump administration.

Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were among the six GOP lawmakers who also asked Trump to pardon them for their efforts in trying to overturn the 2020 elections, media reports said.

In the hearing on June 28 this year, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified that former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were among those who asked the former President for a preemptive pardon after the pro-Trump mob descended on Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Hutchinson had also previously testified that former Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio had discussed pardons with the White House but never asked for one.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Schiff if he believed Trump had committed “specific prosecutable crimes on January 6”.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn before departing from the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 22, 2018.(Xinhua/Ting Shen/IANS)

“Yes, I do,” Schiff said, citing a federal judge who ruled in March that Trump had likely “corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021”, which could amount to felony obstruction.

Meanwhile CNN reported on Wednesday citing unnamed sources that the committee was considering criminal referrals for Trump and some of his allies. Those referrals could include people who refused to cooperate in the committee’s investigation or for specific crimes committed on January 6, Schiff said.

The Congressman said the committee planned to release the evidence it has gathered before Republicans take over the chamber.

“We intend to make our evidence public and, in that way, make sure that is accessible to everyone, to the Justice Department, so that when the Republicans take over, they can’t cherry-pick certain evidence and mislead the country with some false narrative,” he said as quoted by the Insider.

Trump’s representative declined to respond to the Insider’s request for comment.

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Indian-origin breaks another ceiling in US

As First Vice President, Shukla, 54, will be the institution’s second ranking officer…reports Asian Lite News

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has appointed Indian-origin insurance veteran Sushmita Shukla as First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

As First Vice President, Shukla, 54, will be the institution’s second ranking officer.

Her appointment was approved by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the New York Fed said in a statement on Thursday.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to work for a mission-driven organisation like the New York Fed,” Shukla said in a statement.

“I look forward to applying all that I’ve learned in my career, including my technology, operations, and risk-focused experiences, to furthering the key activities and supporting the dedicated leadership of this critical institution,” she added.

Together with the Bank’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Shukla will establish, communicate, and execute the strategic direction of the organisation.

She will also serve as an alternate voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee.

“Sushmita is a dynamic, inspiring, and highly effective leader who brings extensive experience leading large-scale enterprises and transformation initiatives to the Bank,” said John C Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Fed.

“She has an in-depth knowledge of technology and agile innovation methods and is passionate about creating a truly diverse and inclusive culture,” he added.

Shukla has served in leadership roles in the insurance industry for nearly 20 years, primarily leading operations, technology, and enterprise-wide transformation efforts.

For the past five years, she has been Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for International Accident & Health at Chubb — the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company.

Shukla, who resides in Connecticut, is an MBA from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mumbai.

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UAE-Saudi mediate high-profile US-Russia prisoner swap

The mediation secured the release of US basketball star Brittney Griner who had been held in Russia since February….reports Asian Lite News

In a major development, Washington and Moscow have conducted a prisoner swap, exchanging US basketball star Brittney Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, held in an American prison for 12 years.

The exchange has happened after a successful mediation led by UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman with US and Russian governments.

In a joint statement, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said the success of the mediation efforts was a reflection of the mutual and solid friendship between their two countries and the US and Russia.

They also highlighted the important role played by the leaderships of two countries in promoting dialogue between all parties.

The statement confirmed that Abu Dhabi received American citizen Brittney Griner yesterday by private plane from Moscow, after the Russian authorities released her, in conjunction with the reception of Russian citizen Victor Bout on a private plane from Washington, after the US authorities released him, in the presence of specialists from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Both US and Russia claimed their citizens, in preparation for transfer to their countries.

The UAE and Saudi Arabian foreign ministries expressed the thanks of their respective governments to the governments of both countries for their cooperation and response.

Griner, the 32-year-old championship-winning player with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury who for years played for a Russian basketball team in the WNBA’s off-seasons, had been held in the country since February after she was arrested on drug possession charges at a Moscow airport, reports CNN.

Meanwhile, Bout, popularly known as the “merchant of death”, has reached Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement on Friday.

US President Joe Biden’s administration had proposed a prisoner exchange in July, the BBC reported.

Thursday night’s elaborate swap involved two private planes bringing Griner and Bout to Abu Dhabi airport from Moscow and Washington, and then flying them home.

Footage on Russian state media showed them crossing on the tarmac with their respective teams.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Griner’s wife Cherelle praised the efforts of the Biden administration in securing her release and said: “I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions.”

Also addressing the media at the Oval Office, President Biden said that “she’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home”.

“After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along.

“This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release,” he said.

President Joe Biden.(photo:Instagram)

Biden thanks UAE

Biden also thanked the UAE “for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return”.

“I’m glad to say Brittney’s in good spirits… she needs time and space to recover,” he added.

Bout’s release comes after Biden signed an order for his release, commuting his 25-year jail term, in a direct swap for Griner.

In remarks to the media after landing in Moscow, Bout said that “in the middle of the night they simply woke me up and said ‘Get your things together’ and that was it”, reports the BBC.

Bout’s lawyer, Alexei Tarasov, told Russian media that from the start the US wanted two of its citizens –Griner and former marine Paul Whelan — returned, and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow complained that “Washington categorically refused to engage in dialogue”.

Bout sold arms to warlords and rogue governments, becoming one of the world’s most wanted men.

His secretive career was brought to an end by an elaborate US sting operation in 2008, when he was arrested at a hotel in Bangkok.

He was extradited two years later and has spent the past 12 years languishing in an American jail for conspiring to support terrorists and kill Americans.

Meanwhile Whelan, who continues to be imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on spying charges, told CNN that he was “greatly disappointed” more had not been done to free him, as he had carried out no crime.

“I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here,” he said.

ALSO READ: US climate envoy hails holding COP28 in UAE

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US climate envoy hails holding COP28 in UAE

“The UAE Leadership has taken very smart steps because they know that what’s coming out of the ground is not forever, either physically or politically,” said John Kerry…reports Asian Lite News

John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, hailed the decision to hold next year’s 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28) in the UAE, stating that fossil fuel economies should be encouraged to lead the transition to clean energy.

“I think it’s very exciting that the UAE, an OPEC member, is going to host COP28, and it’s so important that you have an oil and gas producing nation step up and say we understand the challenge of the climate crisis,” Kerry told Reuters in an interview.

“The UAE Leadership has taken very smart steps because they know that what’s coming out of the ground is not forever, either physically or politically, and they’re looking at what the new world is going to look like. If there are going to be new forms of energy, they want to be among the providers of it, just as they are today.”

Kerry said this year’s COP27 conference, held last month in Egypt, moved the world a bit closer to the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial times.

He also praised the announcement of 30 upgraded national climate plans along with the summit’s headline agreement on “loss and damage” to help vulnerable countries reeling from climate-driven extreme weather and rising seas.

ALSO READ: UAE launches initiative to shape future economy

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US counterterrorism official due in India

Betts, who is the Department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism, will lead the US delegation at the meeting on December 12-13….reports Arul Louis

The US State Department’s counterterrorism official Timothy Betts will be visiting India next week for the US-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group’s annual meeting.

Betts, who is the Department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism, will lead the US delegation at the meeting on December 12-13.

The 19th meeting of the Joint Working Group will “review regional and global terrorist threat assessments, collaborative bilateral and regional counterterrorism programming, and initiatives to strengthen law enforcement and judicial partnerships”, the Department said on Thursday.

The group met in Washington in October 2021.

Betts was in Japan on Thursday for trilateral counterterrorism discussions with senior officials from Australia and Japan focusing on “the current terrorism landscape, including persistent threats in the Indo-Pacific”, the Department said.

Before going to India, Betts is to stop over in Manila for talks on counterterrorism cooperation and security partnership between the two countries, it added.

ALSO READ: Biden backs bill to speed up immigration by Indians

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Biden backs bill to speed up immigration by Indians

There are 3,69,000 Indians waiting for Green Cards based on their employment and a total of 7,00,000 including family, but cannot get them because of the country caps…reports Arul Louis

US President Joe Biden has thrown his weight behind a legislation to speed up immigration for Indians that is expected to come up in the House of Representatives soon and relieve the 90-year waiting period for some.

The proposed legislation, if adopted, would end the country caps, which limit the number of Green Cards or permanent resident status, leading to citizenship that can be issued to each country every year at 20,000, except for some immediate family members and for Mexicans and Canadians.

This will make the employment-based Green Card system merit-based without regard to nationality.

Calling it an effort to ameliorate the “the harsh effects of the immigrant visa backlog”, the President’s Executive Office expressed support for the legislation’s “goal of allowing US employers to focus on hiring immigrants based on merit, not their birthplace, by eliminating the per country limitation on employment-based immigrant visas (Green Cards)”.

Paving the way for the adoption of the legislation known as EAGLE Act — short for Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment — the House Rules Committee on Monday approved sending it to the House for a vote and the House cleared on Tuesday the procedure for voting on it.

If it is passed by the House, it will have to get the approval of the Senate where a similar bill proposed by Republican Kevin Cramer and Democrat John Hickenlooper is pending.

In a race against time, the two versions of the bill will have to be reconciled and get final approvals before the Congress ends its current session.

A similar legislation was passed by the House in 2019 and another version of it in 2020, but it died when the two chambers did not have time to reconcile the differences in their versions of the bill before the end of the session.

There are 3,69,000 Indians waiting for Green Cards based on their employment and a total of 7,00,000 including family, but cannot get them because of the country caps and are trapped in the limbo of unrealistic waits.

The latest State Department statement on Green Cards shows that applicants from April 2012 were only now eligible to get them.

The waiting time is expected to grow to 90 years as the pipeline swells with more eligible applicants, according to the Cato Institute think-tank, which called it “an impossibly long wait”.

Nearly 2,15,000 people who are waiting for their Green Cards will die before their turn to get them and more than 99 per cent of them will be Indians, it said.

Meanwhile, many countries do not use up their quota letting their allocations go to waste.

The legislation sponsored by California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and co-sponsored by 83 others from both parties aims to gradually eliminate the country caps over a nine-year transition period.

It will also set aside Green Cards on a priority basis for nurses and physiotherapists to meet an urgent need for them.

Reform of the H1B visa system, which grants temporary work permits for highly qualified workers, would also be reformed under the legislation to make the process more transparent and to ensure that American citizens have access to the jobs offered to foreigners.

The legislation also seeks to allow those waiting in the visa backlog for two years to file their formal Green Card applications while they wait so they can continue working when their temporary work permits expire and change employers or start businesses.

This would also ensure that their children do not lose Green Card eligibility when they turn 21.

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Australia, US vow to increase cooperation in Indo-Pacific region

The two countries also released a statement on the occasion of the 32nd annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN)….reports Asian Lite News

Australia and the United States have announced plans to increase cooperation for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

This commitment was made as US State Secretary Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles on December 6 in Washington to advance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a statement released by Pentagon.

The two countries also released a statement on the occasion of the 32nd annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

“The principals committed to deepening cooperation, bilaterally and with regional partners and institutions, to ensure an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, stable, peaceful, prosperous, and respectful of sovereignty. The principals affirmed that regional growth and stability are underpinned by international law, which serves the interests of all nations,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

They committed to enhancing deterrence and resilience through coordinated efforts to offer Indo-Pacific nations support to resist subversion and coercion of any kind.

Defence and Foreign ministers of the US and Australia committed to strengthening their engagement with Indo-Pacific countries to promote economic development and security.

“The four principals emphasized the importance of all states being able to exercise rights and freedoms consistent with international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including freedom of navigation and overflight,” Pentagon added.

They reiterated their strong opposition to destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, such as the militarization of disputed features and dangerous encounters at sea and in the air. They also expressed concern about other actions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including it asserting excessive maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law.

The ministers resolved to work with partners to support regional maritime security and reiterated Taiwan’s role as a leading democracy in the Indo-Pacific region. “They also reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and shared opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo,” the statement read.

The four principals emphasized the importance of all countries managing strategic competition responsibly and committed to work together to ensure competition does not escalate into conflict. “The United States and Australia look to the PRC to do the same and plan to engage Beijing on risk reduction and transparency measures.”

They also affirmed the importance of cooperation with China on issues of shared interest, including climate change, pandemic threats, non-proliferation, countering illicit and illegal narcotics, the global food crisis, and macroeconomic issues. (ANI)

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Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions set for passage

President Joe Biden backs the bill and said he will “promptly and proudly” sign it into law…reports Asian Lite News

The House is set to give final approval Thursday to legislation protecting same-sex marriages in federal law, a monumental step in a decades long battle for nationwide recognition of such unions that reflects a stunning turnaround in societal attitudes.

A law requiring all states to recognize same-sex marriages would come as a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized those marriages nationwide. The bipartisan legislation would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

President Joe Biden backs the bill and said he will “promptly and proudly” sign it into law.

Democrats have moved the bill quickly through the House and Senate since the Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion. That ruling included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex marriage should also be reconsidered.

Roused to action by the court, the House passed a bill to protect the same-sex unions in July with the support of 47 Republicans, a robust and unexpected show of support that kick-started serious negotiations in the Senate. After months of talks, the Senate passed the legislation last week with 12 Republican votes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she is happy that the marriage legislation will be one of her last acts in leadership before stepping aside in January. “I’m so excited,” she said of the legislation, which she said will ensure that “the federal government will never again stand in the way of marrying the person you love.”

The legislation would not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, as the Obergefell ruling now does. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed and it would protect current same-sex unions if the court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision were to be overturned.

While it’s not everything advocates may have wanted, passage of the legislation represents a watershed moment. Just a decade ago, many Republicans openly campaigned on blocking same-sex marriages; today more than two-thirds of the public support them.

Democrats in the Senate, led by Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, slowly won over key Republican votes by negotiating an amendment that would clarify that the legislation does not affect the rights of private individuals or businesses that are already enshrined in current law. The amended bill would also make clear that a marriage is between two people, an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation could endorse polygamy.

In the end, several religious groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came out in support of the bill. The Mormon church said it would support rights for same-sex couples as long as they didn’t infringe upon religious groups’ right to believe as they choose.

Still, most Republicans opposed the legislation and some conservative advocacy groups lobbied aggressively against it in recent weeks, arguing that it doesn’t do enough to protect those who want to refuse services for same-sex couples.

“Marriage is the exclusive, lifelong, conjugal union between one man and one woman, and any departure from that design hurts the indispensable goal of having every child raised in a stable home by the mom and dad who conceived him,” the Heritage Foundation’s Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy, wrote in a recent blog post arguing against the bill.

In Congress, as public sentiment has shifted, Republicans have largely shied away from making that argument. On the House floor Wednesday night, a handful of Republicans voiced opposition over the legislation for process reasons — saying that it hadn’t gotten a full hearing in the House — or by arguing that the religious liberty provisions added by the Senate weren’t enough.

The bill’s supporters will be watching to see whether the 47 Republicans who previously backed the legislation will stick with it, and whether they could gain more votes especially now that it includes the additional religious liberty provisions negotiated by Senate Republicans. Heritage and other groups have been pushing Republicans who support the bill to switch their position.

The almost four dozen Republicans who supported the bill this summer represented a wide range of the GOP caucus — from more moderate members to Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the chair of the conservative hard-right House Freedom Caucus, and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican. All four Republican members of Utah’s congressional delegation also supported the legislation. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy voted against the measure.

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