A bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriage could pass through the Senate if advocates can convince a handful more Republicans.
The Respect for Marriage Act – which aims to repeal homophobic legislature left over from the Clinton era – passed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 267 to 157 on Tuesday (19 July).
The bill comes in anticipation of the Supreme Court potentially undoing the rulings that form the basis of marriage equality in the US – something Clarence Thomas has indicated he would like to pursue after the overturning of Roe v Wade.
With the Senate split 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans, it was initially thought that the bill would stall in the upper chamber.
But after 47 House Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the bill, it seems to be in with a fighting chance.
Republican senators Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, and Thom Tillis have all said they support the bill, according to Reuters.
Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, having previously declined to weigh in on the bill, has now said he will work to get the required 10 Republican votes needed to pass the bill.
Certain Republican senators, such as Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, are still expected to vote against the bill.
McConnell told reporters he would delay his consideration on whether to vote for or against the bill until “we see what the majority leader wants to put on the floor”.
Several politicians have claimed the bill is a political strategy by the Democrats to force representatives and senators to declare their stances on social issues ahead of the mid-term elections.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell speaks as Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune (R) listens during a news briefing after a weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the US Capitol on 12 July, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The bill would repeal certain parts of the 1996 Defense of Marriage act, including a section that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It would also provide legal protections for interracial couples, like McConnell’s.
Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida told CNN the bill was a “stupid waste of time”.
CNN also heard from Republican senator Mitt Romney, who said he was not focused on the bill because same-sex marriage was still protected by the Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court ruling.
In a statement, he said: “I don’t think we need to lose sleep over it unless there was a development that suggested the law was going to be changed.”
Of course, the suggestion of Obergefell being overturned has already been raised by Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas who, in his concurring opinion on the nullification of Roe v. Wade, said it was an opportunity to reconsider “all of this court’s substantive due process precedent”. This includes Obergefell and other rulings, including those that legalised contraceptives.
Many activists and politicians, including president Joe Biden, warned the overturning of Roe was a dangerous path towards the nullification of other protected rights in the US.
After a leaked draft of the abortion ruling, Biden told reporters: “What happens if a state changes the law saying that children who are LGBTQ+ can’t be in classrooms with other children? Is that legit under the way the decision is written?”