House Passes Bill To Protect Same-Sex Marriage In Rebuke To Supreme Court

The bill's fate in the Senate is uncertain.
The House passed a bill Tuesday to protect the legal status of same-sex marriage amid concerns it may be in danger after the Supreme Court overruled the far older Roe v. Wade precedent legalizing abortion.
The House passed a bill Tuesday to protect the legal status of same-sex marriage amid concerns it may be in danger after the Supreme Court overruled the far older Roe v. Wade precedent legalizing abortion.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Lawmakers on Tuesday pushed a bill through the House of Representatives to protect same-sex marriage, amid worries that it may be in danger after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade abortion precedent.

The vote on the bill, authored by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), was 267 to 157. The bill drew significant Republican support, with 47 of the 211 House GOP members voting in favor, while no Democrats voted against it. The bipartisan support for the legislation suggests how much political momentum the issue has gained since the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain. Republicans have derided the bill ― as they did a similar one last week intended to protect travel between states for abortions ― as Democratic fearmongering.

Asked about the bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would withhold comment until legislation was scheduled for the Senate floor. At least one member of his conference, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, has voiced support for the House bill. Senate Democrats would need the assent of at least 10 Republicans to bring it to the floor there if it were filibustered.

“Congress should provide additional assurance marriage equality is a matter of settled law.”

- House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.)

And with the annual August break looming, the same-sex marriage bill would compete for precious floor time with other Democratic priorities, like a drug pricing bill and a semiconductor production bill.

Democrats have been keen to show they are reacting not only to the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe, but also to possible threats to same-sex marriage and contraception, as suggested by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Dobbs.

“In a concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly called on the court to reconsider its decisions protecting other fundamental rights, including the right to same-sex marriage,” Nadler said.

While the majority opinion in Dobbs specifically said the ruling did not apply to other, similar precedents, Nadler said that “Congress should provide additional assurance marriage equality is a matter of settled law.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, scoffed at Nadler’s explanation.

“It is for this unfounded fear that brings us here today. We are here for a charade. We’re here for political messaging,” Jordan said. “This bill is simply the latest installment of the Democrats’ campaign to delegitimize and attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court.”

The bill would formally repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law against same-sex marriage that was overturned in Obergefell. It would require states to reciprocally recognize marriages that are legal in other states as valid, and would prohibit discrimination under state law in public acts against married couples based on their race, sex, ethnicity or national origin.

Later in the week, the House is set to take up a similar bill to protect access to contraception, the legal basis of which relies on the same foundation Thomas criticized in his opinion.

“Imagine telling the next generation of Americans, my generation, that we no longer have the right to marry who we love? Congress can’t allow that to happen.”

- Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.)

In the debate on the marriage bill, several gay Democrats spoke about their personal experiences as same-sex marriage became legal on a state-by-state basis and then nationally, and their fears of what overturning Obergefell would mean.

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said he was still closeted and living with friends when New York ratified same-sex marriage. When he learned it had been ratified, he said, he went into his room and closed the door so he could cry tears of joy alone.

“Imagine telling the next generation of Americans, my generation, that we no longer have the right to marry who we love?” said Jones, who is 35. “Congress can’t allow that to happen.”

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