WASHINGTON (TBEN) — Democrats vote to protect same-sex and interracial marriages until after November’s midterm elections, pulling out just days after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged to put the Senate on the map over the issue “in the coming weeks.”
The request for a reprieve from senators who have pushed for the legislation follows Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the lead senator who defended the bill, and predicted they would get the 10 Republican votes they need to break a filibuster . But the group has struggled in recent days as some Republicans had raised concerns about whether it would protect the rights of religious institutions, business owners or others opposed to same-sex marriage.
The decision came after a meeting with Schumer on Thursday.
“Through a two-pronged partnership, we have developed common sense that respects Americans’ religious freedom and diverse beliefs, while upholding our vision that marriage embodies the highest ideals of love, commitment and family,” Baldwin and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio and Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in a statement along with Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona: “We have asked Leader Schumer for additional time and we appreciate that he has agreed. We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.”
The delay significantly threatens the legislation and could give advocacy groups and other lawmakers opposed to the bill more time to rally Republicans against it. But supporters hope the delay will give them time to find more GOP supporters and ease political pressure ahead of the election.
Amid news of the delay, the White House reiterated that the administration is leaving the mechanics of legislation — such as the timing of a vote — to the Senate.
“We believe the Senate must find consensus, just as the American people have,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday.
Baldwin and the other core group of supporters had worked with GOP senators who were concerned about religious freedom. They planned to make an amendment to clarify that the legislation does not affect the rights of such individuals or companies, which are already enshrined in the law. The legislation instead requires the federal government and states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed, along with interracial marriages.
But some Republicans who had wavered on the bill weren’t on board yet.
Democrats and the small group of Republicans have moved to protect same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court decision overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal right to abortion. Lawmakers fear the court’s ruling, and a consensus view from Judge Clarence Thomas, indicates a previous Supreme Court decision to protect same-sex marriage could be jeopardized.
“We want to pass all this on quickly,” Schumer said last week. “I hope there will be 10 Republicans to support it.”
The Senate’s push for the historic vote — and the openness of some Republicans to support it in an election year — reflects a major shift in the issue since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges banning same-sex marriage nationwide. legalizes. About 70% of U.S. adults in a Gallup poll published in June 2021 said gay unions must be valid by law.
The same-sex marriage protection bill was passed by the House in July with the support of 47 Republicans — a larger-than-expected number that gave the measure a boost in the Senate. But as the weeks went on, more Republicans brought up the religious freedom issues.
Another proposed amendment to the bill would make it clear that marriage is between two people, an attempt to fend off far-right criticism that the legislation could sanction polygamy.
The legislation would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed. The new Respect for Marriage Act would also protect interracial marriages by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “gender, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”
It’s not clear how many Republicans would support the bill. In addition to Collins, Portman and Tillis, a fourth GOP senator, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has supported same-sex marriage in the past. sen. Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, who is up for re-election this year, has said he sees no “reason to oppose it,” but has spoken on both sides of the issue in recent weeks.
Most Republicans who oppose the legislation have said it simply isn’t necessary because the court’s ruling still stands. But others have gone further.
An opposing group, the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, has rolled back the legislation, with a blog post on its website calling it a “serious” threat.
“In the bigger scheme, the Respect for Marriage Act is a way to put an exclamation point on the sexual revolution and its ideology,” wrote Ryan Womack, who works for the group.
Eds: The Bharat Express News writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.