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House passes same-sex marriage bill recognizing those unions at the federal level

Sen. Mitch McConnell declined to publicly state a position on the measure Tuesday
Redistricting Congress
Posted at 6:32 AM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 21:02:43-04

The House passed a bill on Tuesday recognizing same-sex marriages at the federal level. 47 Republicans voted with Democrats in support of the legislation, which is a direct response to growing concern over a conservative Supreme Court that appears to many as possibly poised to nullify marriage equality in the U.S.

As the New York Times reported, the Respect for Marriage Act would now codify federal protections offered to same-sex couples, originally put in place in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. That ruling established same-sex marriage as a 14th Amendment right.

Following the vote, ABC15 spoke with Jeremy Helfgot, the spokesman for Phoenix Pride. He described his reaction to the vote as bittersweet, "Obviously, we are happy to see the U.S. House of Representatives move today in defense of marriage as it exists now."

But, Helfgot makes it clear that he's alarmed knowing it's possible that same-sex couples could see the rights they've lived with for seven years be taken away, "We don't even entirely sure what that would mean if the Court were to reverse the decision in Overfell v. Hodges. We don't know what that would look like."

Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton is one of the lawmakers who voted in favor of the rebuke of the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade, "It makes it absolutely clear that the U.S. Congress says that marrying who you love is the law of the land."

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko released the following statement to ABC15:

“Instead of solving inflation and lowering gas prices, Democrats are, once again, pushing divisive, unnecessary legislation that has already been decided by the Supreme Court. The Democrats are once again deceiving the American people for political gain.”

The legislation passed in the House with a vote of 267 to 157 and now definitely faces an uncertain battle in a divided U.S. Senate. Senate minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, was not willing to publicly state a position on the measure on Tuesday.

The legislation is a preemptive attempt to solidify gay and interracial marriage and contraception rights nationwide. House Democrats say there is a possibility that the conservative Supreme Court could reverse same-sex and interracial marriage and contraception rights at the national level the same way it overturned Roe v. Wade, which includes leaving the question of legal abortions to the various U.S. states.

“The Supreme Court’s extremist and precedent-ignoring decision in Dobbs v. Jackson has shown us why it is critical to ensure that federal law protects those whose constitutional rights might be threatened by Republican-controlled state legislatures,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “LGBTQ Americans and those in interracial marriages deserve to have certainty that they will continue to have their right to equal marriage recognized, no matter where they live, should the Court act on Justice Thomas’ draconian suggestion that the 2013 United States v. Windsor and 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges rulings be reconsidered or if it were to overturn Loving v. Virginia.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, suggested the Supreme Court was wrong in Obergefell v. Hodges, saying the decision to permit gay marriage should be left to states.

“In Obergefell, the court said, 'No, we know better than you guys do, and now every state must, must sanction and permit gay marriage.' I think that decision was clearly wrong when it was decided. It was the court overreaching,” he said on his podcast. 

Writing the majority opinion in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the Supreme Court should revisit past cases.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” Thomas wrote.

The “Lawrence” case Thomas referenced was a 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court that ruled criminal punishments for sodomy were unconstitutional and violated privacy rights.

While the bills can pass with a Democratic majority in the House, the Senate would need the support of 10 Republicans to break the filibuster.