Pressure on Senate GOP after same-sex marriage passed in House – Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON — The Senate unexpectedly launched a new initiative Wednesday to protect same-sex marriage in federal law after a surprising number of Republicans helped pass landmark legislation in the House. Some GOP senators are already signaling support.
The legislation began as an election season political effort to confront the new Supreme Court majority after the court struck down abortion access in Roe v. Wade, raising concerns that other rights are at risk. But suddenly it has a chance to become law. Pressure is mounting on Republicans to drop their longstanding opposition and join a bipartisan moment for gay rights.
“This legislation was so important,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as the chamber opened on Wednesday.
The Democratic leader marveled at the House’s 267-157 tally, with 47 Republicans — nearly a fifth of GOP lawmakers — voting for the bill Tuesday night.
“I want to introduce this bill,” Schumer said, “and we’re working to get the Senate Republican support needed to secure its passage.”
The political odds are still long for legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine same-sex and interracial marriages as protected under federal law. Conservatives, including House GOP leaders, widely opposed the bill, and the vast majority of Republicans voted against it.
But in a sign of shifting political attitudes and the need for an election victory, some Republicans are signaling there could be an opening. Few Republicans spoke out directly against same-sex marriage during Tuesday’s House debate. And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was notably quiet when asked about the bill, saying he would take a look at it if it came to the Senate.
“I’m going to delay announcing anything on this matter,” McConnell said, adding that he would wait to see if Schumer introduces him.
President Joe Biden wants Congress to send him the bill to sign as soon as possible.
“It’s something that’s personal to the president,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with the president.
Biden is “a proud champion of people’s right to marry whoever they love and is grateful to see bipartisan support for that right,” she said. “He thinks it’s non-negotiable and the Senate should act quickly to get this forwarded to the president’s office. He wants to sign it, so we need this legislation and we urge Congress to act as quickly as possible. . »
So far, the legislation has only two Senate Republican co-sponsors, Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Thom Tillis from North Carolina are among others closely watched for possible support.
A total of 10 Republican senators are expected to join all Democrats in reaching the 60-vote threshold to overcome a GOP filibuster.
“We’re seeing progress on this, and I’m going to make progress,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the bill’s lead sponsor, told reporters on Capitol Hill.
No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, was dubious on Tuesday, calling the bill little more than a political message.
Social issues, including same-sex marriage and abortion, topped the congressional agenda this summer in reaction to the Supreme Court’s action reversing Roe v. Wade, a stunning decision that ended the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion. . It set off alarms that other rights conservatives have targeted could be next.
While Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, insisted that Roe v. Wade was all about abortion access, she demonstrated the new conservative muscle with three Trump-era justices tipping the scales of the court. A concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas, who has gained stature in the new majority, raised questions about same-sex marriage and other rights.
“We take Justice Thomas — and the extremist movement behind him — at his word,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during the House debate. “That’s what they intend to do.”
Both Pelosi and Schumer slammed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said over the weekend that the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision upholding same-sex marriage was “clearly wrong.”
The Respect for Marriage Act was rushed through the House in an election year, with polls showing a majority of Americans favor preserving the right to marry, regardless of gender, gender, race or ethnicity, a long-standing shift in modern mores toward inclusion.
A Gallup poll released in June 2021 showed broad and growing support for same-sex marriage, with 70% of American adults saying they think such unions should be recognized by law. The poll showed majority support among Democrats (83%) and Republicans (55%).
Approval of interracial marriage in the United States hit a six-decade high at 94% in September, according to Gallup.
McConnell, the Republican leader, is eager to regain control of the Senate, now evenly split 50-50, and his views on whether his party should support or oppose same-sex marriage protections will almost certainly be seen at through this political lens.
Unlike the issue of abortion, where opinions are deeply divided with little room for Congress to find common ground, attitudes toward same-sex continue to evolve and change among lawmakers.
Incumbent Republican senators seeking re-election and GOP candidates running for office may want a chance to support the same-sex marriage issue that is popular with many voters. Strong Republican-led opposition could be seen as detrimental to party candidates in swing states McConnell must win to regain control.
A Republican hopeful, Joe O’Dea, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet in Colorado, said he was happy to see the same-sex marriage bill pass the House.
“You have a lot of politicians in both political parties who spend way too much time trying to tell people how to live their lives. It is not me. I live my life. You live yours,” O’Dea said. “Let us continue to solve the enormous challenges facing the American people.
Still, some vocal Republican Party leaders, including Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, both potential presidential candidates, have indicated likely opposition to the legislation.
The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which enshrined in federal law the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union between a man and a woman. That 1996 law was largely overshadowed by later court decisions, including Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri, Mary Clare Jalonick and Darlene Superville in Washington and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.