Senate Republicans are trying to get Democrats to water down the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill codifying marriage equality to keep the Supreme Court’s extremist hands off that right. This was an inevitable step in the process of Republicans trying to avoid a hard vote, and yet Democrats appear to be falling into the trap.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican Sen. Susan Collins are supposedly working to “build more support with Republicans,” including by adding language with “more clarity that the legislation would not take away any religious liberty or conscience protections.” This on a bill that got the support of 47 Republicans when it passed the House, and with limited time to get it passed before the annual fall crunch of funding the government. Changing the bill would involve getting it through the House again, adding even more time on top of what negotiating new language would require. And once Democrats start changing the legislation, Republicans are virtually guaranteed to move the goalposts repeatedly.
Democrats must not let Republicans run down the clock on a vote to protect a fundamental right.
RELATED STORY: GOP senators have a plan to avoid a marriage equality vote. Are Democrats really falling for it?
The first Republican avoidance strategy was to refuse to say how they would vote while Democrats chased their votes. Democrats didn’t want to bring the bill to the Senate floor until they had 10 Republicans lined up, and many Republicans didn’t want to publicly admit that they would oppose it, so they said things like “I'll see if it comes up, and then I'll make a decision,” and Democrats didn’t call that bluff.
Then Collins said that the Democratic deal on a completely separate issue, the Inflation Reduction Act, was "a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way."
And now Republicans want changes to the bill, lest they might have to acknowledge someone else’s marriage as real and valid violate religious freedom.
At Talking Points Memo, Sarah Posner explains why Republicans are so reluctant to get to a vote on marriage equality: On the one hand, Gallup finds 71% support for same-sex marriage. But on the other hand, the single major religious group that opposes marriage equality is evangelical Christians, also known as the Republican base, and right-wing organizations have been lobbying hard and issuing threats. These organizations have a long-term goal of getting the Supreme Court to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, and they’re not going to sit back while Congress ruins that.
Republicans are between a rock and a hard place, and it’s time for Democrats to start pressing that rock closer to the hard place. Consider this: According to Gallup, support for same-sex marriage is substantially higher than opposition to overturning Roe was. It’s higher than self-identification as pro-choice. This is a winning issue for Democrats in addition to being the right policy move. If Republicans are going to oppose it, make them show themselves in a vote. Don’t let them weasel and squirm their way out of having a vote at all.
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