The US Senate approved a bill to protect the right to same-sex and interracial marriages - the "Act on Respect for Marriage". 61 senators voted "for" - all Democrats and 12 Republicans, 36 were "against", CNN reports.
The passage of the law comes amid fears that the Supreme Court could overturn a 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the country.
The bill obliges any US state to recognize same-sex marriages concluded in other states – even if this state itself does not recognize such unions. The document is supposed to replace the 1996 Marriage Protection Act, which defines marriage as "a union between one man and one woman."
The bill would give "millions of same-sex and interracial same-sex couples the certainty and confidence that their marriages are valid and will remain valid in the future," Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, one of those who championed the legislation, said Tuesday before the bill's passage. Baldwin became the first openly gay member of the Senate in US history.
A similar but not identical bill passed the US House of Representatives earlier this year with the support of 47 Republicans and all Democrats. The House of Representatives now needs to approve the Senate version before it is sent to US President Joe Biden for his signature.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has already said Congress will pass the bill next week.
Democrats are rushing to pass the law before the end of the year. Starting in January, the composition of Congress will change according to the results of the recent midterm elections, and the majority in the lower house will go to the Republicans.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. However, after former President Donald Trump appointed three new conservative justices to the Supreme Court, there were fears that the decision would be overturned – as it recently did with the constitutional right to abortion.
According to the Census Bureau, there are about 568,000 married same-sex couples in the United States.