The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) last night, a bill that would protect the right to marriage for same-sex couples. All the Democratic members of the House voted for the bill along with a 47 Republicans, a minority of the GOP.
The vast majority of Republican House members – 157 – voted against the bill.
Even though marriage equality is currently legal in the U.S. as a result of the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, proponents of the bill argued that that decision is in danger from the more conservative Supreme Court of 2022. The Supreme Court just overturned Roe v. Wade despite Americans having a right to an abortion for decades.
Proponents of the RMA believe that marriage equality could be the next right that the Court overturns and they cited Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where he mentioned Obergefell as a decision that the Court should reconsider now that it ruled against substantive due process rights.
Several of the Republicans who voted against the RMA said in floor speeches that they believe it’s unnecessary. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said that the bill is “simply the latest installment of the Democrats’ campaign to delegitimize and attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court.”
While his argument yesterday was procedural, he has shown a deep opposition to LGBTQ equality in the past. In 2009 he introduced a bill to ban D.C. from allowing same-sex marriages. In 2011 he boycotted a major conservative conference because an LGBTQ conservative group, GOProud, was allowed to attend. He has said that he wants to bring back Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the law that banned gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the military.
Moreover, Democrats countered, Republicans could vote for the bill even if they don’t believe it’s necessary.
“If it’s not necessary, then vote for it. If you’re right that we’re worried and we shouldn’t be, reaffirm it,” said out Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “But don’t hide behind that to justify your refusal to vote for marriage equality in this country.”
Other Republicans, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), were more forthright when explaining why they were voting against it.
“I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s how God created it,” Greene said before the vote.
The RMA will now go to the Senate, where it could face an uphill battle to pass. Senate rules require 60 out of 100 senators to vote to end the debate on a bill, and there are only 50 Democrats in the Senate.
If passed, the bill would officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that forbade the federal government from legally recognizing same-sex marriages. In its place, the act would require the federal and state governments to recognize same-sex marriages as long as they occurred in states that offer them. If any state refuses to recognize such marriages, the act says, the spouses can sue.