Politics

AOC calls for Senate to end filibuster & codify marriage equality as a federal right

January 19, 2019: US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at 3rd Annual Women's Rally and March on streets of Manhattan organized by Women's March Alliance.
January 19, 2019: US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at 3rd Annual Women's Rally and March on streets of Manhattan organized by Women's March Alliance.Photo: Shutterstock

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for Congress to codify the rights to abortion, contraception, marriage equality, and interracial marriage as calls for Congress to thwart the conservative justices’ attempts to roll back Americans’ rights increase.

“We have the possibility – when we are strengthened by the repeal of the filibuster or even the change to a talking filibuster or standing filibuster – in doing so, we can codify Roe, we can codify- and all the other cases that the supreme Court indicated that they would threaten, we can codify same-sex marriage, we can codify the right to contraception, we can codify interracial marriage,” Ocasio-Cortez said on The Late Show last night.

Related: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez roasts Kyrsten Sinema for putting “lobbyists over people”

The Congresswoman from New York was discussing the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the federal right to an abortion in the U.S.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, suggested that other rights built on the same legal principles as Roe – including marriage equality, the right not to be jailed for being gay, and the right to access contraception – are the next on the chopping block.

Liberals have been calling on Congress to pass laws protecting these rights now that the Supreme Court is removing them from the Constitution, and even Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is joining the calls.

“In his disturbing concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas confirmed many of our deepest fears about where this decision may lead: taking aim at additional longstanding precedent and cherished privacy rights, from access to contraception and in-vitro fertilization to marriage equality,” Pelosi wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. “Legislation is being introduced to further codify freedoms which Americans currently enjoy. More information to follow. ”

The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision required all 50 states to recognize marriage equality and to treat same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples when it comes to marital rights. Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in that case, is speaking out for Congress to pass a law making marriage equality a federal right in case the Supreme Court overturns his historic victory for LGBTQ rights.

“I’m devastated for women, for people who get pregnant. For all of us in our nation who have enjoyed and expect to enjoy the right to make decisions about our own bodies, that’s a terrifying thing for the highest court in the land to take away,” he told Newsweek.

“You know, the concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, he clearly paints a target on a woman’s right to birth control and on same-sex couples, right to intimate relations in the privacy of their own home and on our right to marriage equality. So, opponents of LGBTQ+ equality, opponents of marriage equality and birth control will use that language to launch challenges to those rights.”

“We have got to act. We must be vocal,” Obergefell continued.

“We have got to demand that Congress propose and pass federal legislation that will protect these rights that we have enjoyed, that we’ve come to rely on.”

“We have to demand that our state legislatures do the same thing, pass legislation that protects these rights at a state level. We know we are at risk in the Supreme Court, but we must do what we can. And that’s demanding that our state legislatures and Congress act to protect the rights that a majority of Americans want and believe in.”

But as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the Senate could be a roadblock to passing such legislation. Democrats currently have a slight majority in the Senate – there are 50 Democratic senators and 50 Republican senators and the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote – but Senate rules currently require 60 votes to end a filibuster in order to actually vote on a bill. So effectively 10 Republicans must join Democrats to vote to end the debate on a bill in order for it to pass.

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have been the two most vocal opponents of ending the filibuster, a position that has hamstringed Senate Democrats’ ability to pass progressive laws, including the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights legislation and ban many forms of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Ted Cruz is fighting with a Muppet on Twitter again. This time it’s Elmo.

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