Election 2024

Chuck Schumer will force Republicans to vote on same-sex marriage before midterm elections

Chuck Schumer Photo: Shutterstock

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) has announced his attention to hold a vote “in the coming weeks” on the “The Respect for Marriage Act,” a bill that would help enshrine same-sex marriage rights into law.

In doing so, he’d get Senate Republicans to state whether they support marriage equality before the November midterm elections. Democrats could use Republican opposition to the bill to pummel conservative candidates and convince larger numbers of Democratic voters to come to the polls.

Democratic and Independent voters have come out against Republicans in greater numbers since the conservative-led Supreme Court overturned the right to abortions nationwide in June. Political commentators think even more voters could come out against Republicans over same-sex marriage, considering that a June Gallup poll found that 71 percent of voters support marriage equality.

“Let me be clear,” Schumer said in a Wednesday press conference, “a vote on marriage equality will happen on the Senate floor in the coming weeks, and I hope there will be 10 Republicans to support it.”

“Our two leading members on this issue, Sen. [Tammy] Baldwin and [Kyrtsten] Sinema, are working with Republicans to see if there are enough votes to pass the bill,” he added.

Thus far, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have all said that they would vote in favor of the bill. The bill needs 10 Republican senate votes to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a guaranteed filibuster and become law.

When asked about the legislation on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “I know there’s a legislative pathway that’s being discussed currently in Congress. We’ll let leadership decide how to move forward with that.”

She added, “The President is proud is a champion of a right for people to marry. They can choose who they love, and he believes it is non-negotiable, and the Senate should act swiftly to get this to the President’s desk.”

However, several Republican senators have come out against the bill.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) had initially said that he would “not oppose” the bill. He has since changed his mind.

“Never felt this bill is necessary,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “This is just Democrats opening up a wound that doesn’t need to be opened up. And now that I’ve talked to people there are some very serious concerns on religious liberty…. I would not support it in its current state.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has also said he will oppose the bill due to concerns over “religious liberties.”

“This bill without a religious liberty protection would have massive consequences across our country, weaponizing the Biden administration to go and target universities, K-12 schools, social service organizations, churches and strip them all of their tax-exempt status,” Cruz claimed earlier this week on his podcast Verdict.

Cruz said that he and his allies are encouraging fellow Republicans to vote against the bill. He also said Republicans would push to add an amendment to the bill that would provide “a strong protection of religious liberty.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has also said he’ll oppose the bill, stating, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”

In mid-July, 47 Republican House lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, helping it pass the lower legislative chamber.

In late July, 83 conservative organizations wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), claiming that the bill will legalize polygamy and incest.

In reality, he Respect for Marriage Act would officially repeal the so-called 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.

Democrats and Collins introduced the bill after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that the nation’s highest court should consider overturning Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

In his footnote to the June Supreme Court decision overturning abortion access nationwide, Justice Thomas wrote that the court should “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold [the case that granted the right to contraception]  Lawrence [the case that struck down anti-sodomy laws], and Obergefell [the case that legalized marriage equality].”

“We have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” Thomas wrote.

If the court overturns Obergefell, it would essentially leave individual states to decide their own same-sex marriage laws. Nearly 30 states have same-sex marriage bans currently on their books.

The Respect for Marriage Act has the support of LGBTQ and allied national organizations including the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, the Equality Federation, Family Equality, Freedom for All Americans, GLAD, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Women’s Law Center, and PFLAG.

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