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Republican Senators said to support codifying same-sex marriage


Nathan Posner | ANADOLU AGENCY | Anadolu Agency via AFP

John Burger - published on 09/16/22

Senate leadership agrees to postpone vote on "Respect for Marriage Act" until after midterm elections.

There seem to be enough Republicans in the US Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. 

That would have been an obvious statement several years ago. Of course Republicans support respect for marriage, many would assume.

But this time around, “respect for marriage” has been redefined – as has marriage itself.

The bill, which seeks to codify same-sex “marriage” into federal law before the US Supreme Court has a chance to overturn its own 2015 decision that found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives in July. But with a Senate pretty evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, it’s been a challenge to get enough votes to avoid a filibuster. 

To make it a little easier for some Republicans to join the 50 members of the Democratic Caucus (which includes two Independents) who are all but certain to vote yes, Senate leadership this week agreed to postpone the vote until after this fall’s midterm elections. 

Retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) said recently that the bill would be much more likely to get 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster if it were considered after the midterms, The Hill reported. “If I wanted to pass that and I was the majority leader and I wanted to get as many votes as I could possibly get, I’d wait until after the election to have the vote,” Blunt told reporters.  

Then, on Thursday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the lead Democratic negotiator on the bill, said the Senate will postpone the vote until after election day.  

Religious freedom amendment

A bipartisan group of senators has been trying to hammer out language to make the bill more palatable to Republicans. Reportedly, there’s an amendment to address concerns about how the legislation would affect religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage. 

Although the group did not disclose the language of the amendment, they released a statement Thursday afternoon saying they would have at least 10 Republican votes for the legislation in late November or December.  

“We’ve asked [Senate Majority] Leader [Charles] Schumer [D-NY] for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed,” said the group, which includes Democratic Senators Baldwin, Rob Portman of Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. “We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass this bill.”

But the Family Research Council does not have faith in such an amendment, regardless of its language.

“This amendment can’t truly fix the underlying problem: Enshrining the redefinition of marriage in law harms children, denies reality, and super-charges attacks on Americans who continue to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Mary Beth Waddell, Director of Federal Affairs for Family and Religious Liberty of the Family Research Council.

The legislation would mandate that the federal government recognize a marriage if it was valid in the state where it was performed. Currently, about 30 states prohibit same-sex marriage, and if the court overturned Obergefell v. Hodges, the ruling allowing same-sex marriage nationwide, presumably some or all of those prohibitions would go back into effect.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson decision, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in the majority opinion that although the justices find no constitutional right to abortion, other recent court findings, such as the right of members of the same sex to marry, are safe. 

Justice Clarence Thomas, however, wrote in a concurring opinion that the court ought to reexamine the panel’s “substantive due process” reasoning in decisions ranging from Griswold v. Connecticut, which established a “right to privacy” in regards to a married couple’s use of contraceptives, to Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 decriminalized sodomy, to Obergefell itself.

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Though still on the books, the law was effectively sidelined by Obama-era court rulings, including Obergefell.

The Democrats’ new bill also would provide legal protections for interracial marriages by prohibiting any state from denying out-of-state marriage licenses and benefits on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. 

Said the Family Research Council’s Waddell: “One of the harms of the (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act that [the religious liberty] amendment can’t adequately reconcile is that the bill makes ministries and organizations that serve the underserved, including faith-based adoption agencies, even more vulnerable to attacks through frivolous litigation, which they are already enduring.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops “continues to encourage senators to reject the measure,” said spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi, who referred a reporter to the USCCB’s July 22 letter to members of Congress.

“Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, and open to new life, is not just a religious ideal – it is, on the whole, what is best for society in a concrete sense, especially for children,” said the letter, signed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Cordileone said that the Respect for Marriage Act “would do the opposite of what its name implies, codifying a demand for states and the federal government to honor whatever may be deemed ‘marriage’ by any other state. The concern that the bill could require federal recognition of ‘marriages’ of more than two persons is not far-fetched, as at least three cities in Massachusetts have already legally enshrined so-called polyamorous domestic partnerships. By making federal recognition of such relationships automatic upon their recognition by any state, the bill would create a massive incentive for radical activists to concentrate their efforts in a single state – further lending plausibility to this potentially disastrous scenario.”

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