In light of Roe v. Wade being overturned in June and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion he wrote for the case insinuating that previously settled cases like same-sex marriage and contraception should be revisited, Democrats are attempting to codify same-sex marriage into law to protect the rights of same-sex couples nationwide.
After the blowback that they’ve received for not codifying abortion rights when they had the ability and the numbers to do so in the past, perhaps this is something of a lesson for congressional Democrats to move with more urgency, not take for granted the people that come out to vote for them, and to not be naive as to just how conservative this Supreme Court is. This Supreme Court has already shown that they don’t have a problem ruling against issues that have widespread public support.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Fourteenth Amendment. As Thomas implied in his opinion on Roe v. Wade, cases that have been settled and are “precedent” are not necessarily safe. As such, Democrats introduced a bill in the House titled the Respect for Marriage Act, passing it with unanimous Democratic support and support from 47 Republicans. While 47 “yes” votes from Republicans is not even 25 percent of their caucus, it is notable in comparison to just years ago when Republican lawmakers being on record for marriage equality were few and far between.
While it is unclear of the fate of the bill in the Senate, four Republican senators are on record supporting the bill: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Democrats would need six more Republican senators willing to advance the bill past a filibuster for a vote.
A number of Republicans may not be saying that they disagree with marriage equality in principle but are using the justification that the bill is a “stupid waste of time” (as in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s case) or that marriage equality is not under serious threat. It’s easy to rationalize and say that the Supreme Court won’t go that far, but when one Justice is already on record saying it should be revisited and it only takes five people to strip our rights away, it’s anything but a stupid waste of time.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has thus far not said whether he’ll support the Respect for Marriage Act or not, and no other Senators are on record saying they’d support it, but such a bill would be huge for protecting marriage equality, should the Supreme Court try to once more take away a right.