Democrats rallying to codify interracial, same-sex marriage rights as Senate Republicans flail

Democrats rallying to codify interracial, same-sex marriage rights as Senate Republicans flail

July 20, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

Campaign Action

This vote on basic privacy rights—along with one later this week on contraception—is a total gift to congressional Democrats courtesy of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But it’s an absolute win on both the policy and the politics for Senate Democrats, in particular. That’s why Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said early Wednesday that Democrats planned to work a vote into the Senate schedule.

“I want to bring this bill to the floor, and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass,” Schumer announced, noting that openly gay Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin would be running point on the bill.

First of all, codifying these rights to interracial and same-sex marriage would be so important to many millions of Americans and, particularly, young people who care deeply about equality issues.

Second, and as a bonus, the politics couldn’t be better for Democrats. If they succeed in protecting the right of Americans to marry the person they love, Democrats can say, see, having Democratic majorities matters because Republicans would have never even considered protecting these rights. Indeed, Democrats can deliver.

However, if Republicans block it by withholding the 10 GOP votes necessary to beat the filibuster, it puts them on the wrong side of some two-thirds of the country. It would also totally blow up Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s effort to try to moderate his caucus ahead of the midterm in order to make them seem more palatable to American voters. McConnell wants voters focused on gas and grocery prices, not the fundamental civil rights that Republicans would gleefully deny the masses if they were in charge. 

Third, nearly every Senate Republican running for reelection will likely vote against the Respect for Marriage Act, while nearly all the GOP candidates in battleground races will come out against it.

Take Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who proceeded to tell people of color, people who love people of color, and LGBTQ Americans that their marriage rights are pure trash to him.

Responding to CNN Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju on Wednesday, Rubio said he planned to vote “no” on the bill, calling it a “stupid waste of time.” Speaking on behalf of gay Floridians, Rubio suggested that they are far more concerned about gas prices than their fundamental right to marry the person they love.

I know plenty of gay people in Florida that are pissed off about gas bills,” Rubio offered, with the pitch-perfect flair of someone who singlehandedly ran their own 2016 presidential bid into the ground.

It was a gimme for Rubio’s Democratic rival, Rep. Val Demings.

“Marco Rubio doesn’t believe in marriage equality. I voted to protect it,” Demings tweeted Wednesday of her vote in favor of the bill.

So let’s go on down the line of GOP Senate incumbents and hopefuls (**this is evolving quickly so might not be up to date):

  • Sen. Marco of Florida: No
  • Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin: Likely a no
  • Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker: Almost surely a no
  • Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance: ? (Likely a no)
  • Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz: ? (either way, he ticks off MAGA base or kisses suburbs goodbye)
  • North Carolina GOP Senate nominee, Rep. Ted Budd: No
  • Nevada GOP Senate nominee Adam Laxalt: Almost surely a no

Bottom line: Republicans are flailing on this. Judging by the wide range of responses recorded by HuffPost senior politics reporter Igor Bobic, Republicans clearly never seriously pondered taking a vote on a marriage equality bill. McConnell has been notably silent on the matter, declining both last week and Tuesday to take a position. That absence of leadership has left Senate Republicans to their own devices with no coherent set of talking points. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who might be hitting rough waters in his reelection bid, dodged the question. Asked about the freedom to marry bill and his stance on same-sex marriage, Grassley said, “It’s the law of the land,” referring to the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

When a reporter noted that Roe had been the law of the land too until Scotus gutted it, Grassley clammed up.

Grassley’s GOP counterpart in Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst, also twisted in the wind a bit, saying she was “keeping an open mind” about the bill.

But she added that she does know gay people. “I have a good number of very close friends that are same-sex married,” Ernst said. Apparently, she’s just not sure whether their marriages should be protected. Charming.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who’s not up for reelection, was similarly noncommittal.

“Given the fact that the law is settled on this,” he offered, “I don’t think we need to lose sleep over it unless there were a development that suggested the law was going to be changed.”

Get ready to vote, Romney. Ditto for Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who is up for reelection this November. Interestingly, all four Utah Republican congressmen voted in favor of the bill, while Lee would almost certainly vote against it. That could potentially work in favor of Lee’s chief rival, Utah independent Evan McMullin.

The four Republican Senators who said they were open to supporting the bill were: Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Only Murkowski is up for reelection this fall.

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