“I haven’t read it,” said Senator John Neely Kennedy (R-La.).
“We’re still looking at it,” said Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
“I’m not going to comment on it in terms of how I’m going to vote until I see the bill — if it does get voted,” said Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
The reality is that senators have little trouble understanding what the bill does: It repeals the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and requires states to grant “full trust and credit” to any marriage between two people, regardless of “gender, race, , ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals” — a reflection of the action taken by the Supreme Court in 2015. Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationally.
The complicated thing is the politics: Despite the fact that 7 in 10 Americans now approve of same-sex marriage, the issue remains a fraught one for Republicans. They still view the religious right as an important part of their electoral coalition, and they remain wary of being lured by Democrats to highlight what some of them believe is a purely speculative threat to same-sex marriage rights at the national level. , while Republicans would much rather talk about rising inflation and a weakening economy.
House Passes Protection For Gay Marriages, Interracial Marriages With Support From Two Parties
“Most of our members will say, why are we holding this vote now when no one is talking about it?” said Senator John Thune (RS.D.), the Senate No. 2 GOP leader. “Looks like the Democrats are using it as a distraction.”
But in the eyes of Democrats, bringing same-sex marriage into federal law became much more than a political stunt with last month’s Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutional right to abortion, which had existed since the Roe v. Wade decision 49 years ago. Like interracial and same-sex marriage rights, the federal right to abortion was based on the constitutional theory of substantive due process that recognizes “countless” rights, such as the right to privacy.
While the court’s controlling opinion last month ruled that the abortion ruling “must not cast doubt on precedents that do not relate to abortion,” a concurring opinion of Judge Clarence Thomas did just that — calling on the Supreme Court to “do all this.” to reconsider The substantive precedents of the Court of Justice, “including Obergefelll and Griswold v. Connecticutthat protected access to contraception, and Lawrence v. Texaswhich invalidated the state’s sodomy laws.
“We are in the post-roe world, where marriage equality, birth control freedoms — it’s all on the table as far as the Supreme Court is concerned,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “And this very issue is on the right-wing majority’s hit list. So just as unthinkable as tilting roe was only a year ago, it must be considered in danger.”
A handful of Senate Republicans have already signed up to join the effort, including Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Thom Tillis (NC). A fifth Republican, Senator Ron Johnson (Wis.), said last week he had “no reason to oppose the measure,” while also accusing Democrats of “creating a state of fear over an issue of further dividing Americans over their political advantage.”
That’s five Republicans more than Democrats’ efforts to codify earlier this year roe in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision. But Democrats need at least 10 to join them in overcoming a filibuster.
Senate Democrats See Hope for Gay Marriage Votes Amid GOP Support
Dozens of Republicans are expected to oppose the measure if it is put to a vote. Among those who said on Tuesday they would have no qualms about voting “no” was Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.), who said in a statement that the bill was “an attempt by Democrats to make political points. score by producing hysteria and panic, in addition to escalating their ongoing attacks on the Court.”
But many simply do not take a position. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leads the wait-and-see parade, telling reporters Tuesday that he would continue to keep his powder dry until Senate Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) schedules a vote. Asked about his stance on the bill, McConnell said, “I’m not going to comment on that until the issue is actually raised in the Senate.”
That stance has been comfortable for many Republicans this week: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said she “heard about the matter from both sides” and remained undecided. “I’ll see if it comes, and then I’ll make a decision,” said Senator Richard Burr (RN.C.), while Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) declined to state his position, noting : “I don’t know if we’ll vote on that or not.”
Behind the scenes, those senators are being lobbied by some of their colleagues, including Collins, Portman, and Tillis, as well as the two Democratic senators who are openly members of the LGBTQ community, Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
“We’re just trying to work through it,” Tillis said. “Ultimately, the members have to make their own decisions, but in my opinion it is very different from the bill that Senator Schumer put on the ground for codification. Roe v. Wade. … This is a genuine codification of current legislation.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are under pressure from elements of their political coalition urging them to stand firm against the bill. A letter sent to McConnell on Tuesday, signed by leaders of the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and dozens of other socially conservative organizations and institutions, said the measure would “endanger people of faith” and the effect would have of “silence”. those with the long-held belief that marriage between one man and one woman is essential for human flourishing.”
“It has little to do with protecting rights; the text betrays an intent to stigmatize and take away rights – especially those of religious people,” said the letter, first reported by Politico.
The religious right’s biggest ally in its quest to halt the bill’s progress could be an impending bill pileup in the Senate, as well as a spate of health-related absences that could prevent the Senate from collecting the 60 votes it takes to pass a bill. to defeat filibuster. sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) is recovering from hip replacement surgery, while Murkowski and Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.
“We are working very hard to get 10 Republican senators,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “Between that and the diseases, we are not there yet.” He didn’t name the same-sex marriage law as one of his top priorities for action before the Senate begins its summer recess next week, instead citing bills to boost investment in research and development, lower prescription drug prices and improve health care. for veterans.
Baldwin said Tuesday the bill is “getting more support every day,” but the absences are a concern.
“We’ll do it when we have the votes and the time,” she said, adding: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with significantly more. [than those who are] make a public commitment on this point.”
But Democrats’ insistence on waiting for enough GOP support to hold a vote amid Republicans’ reluctance to publicly embrace the legislation has created a Catch-22 for now. “My assumption is that it certainly won’t happen until they are convinced they have 10 Republicans,” said Thune, who has opposed same-sex marriage in the past but has not taken a position on the Respect for Marriage Act.
“I think some of them hope it just goes away,” Blumenthal said, talking about his own conversations with Republicans. “But when it comes down to it… I think if you put it on the floor today, it would pass. What I hear is, ‘You know, our base is tough on this matter, but how can we ever defy history?’ ”