Senate Republicans began informally considering the Respect for Marriage Act on Wednesday and, while they may ultimately quash the House-passed legislation codifying federal same-sex marriage rights, political operatives say that the GOP has an opportunity to take the issue off the table and deny the Democrats the chance to wield it against them in upcoming campaigns.
The legislation passed the House on Tuesday, with unanimous Democrat support and 47 of 204 Republican votes, according to the Washington Examiner.
The news outlet reports that there appeared to be four Republican votes in favor of the bill, while several other Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, were noncommittal — meaning that the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster and send the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk could emerge in the coming days.
Codifying federal same-sex marriage rights has become a priority for Democrats after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the question of abortion back to the states.
In his concurrence, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas urged legal challenges against the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, saying that the ruling, which created the constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, was wrongfully decided — just like in Roe.
With 10 Republican votes, the U.S. could essentially end the debate over same-sex marriage rights, as the Respect for Marriage Act would mandate all states recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where such unions are legal, if Obergefell were to be overturned.
Republican operatives told the Examiner that the move is smart politically in 2022.
"It's a far easier vote, with less downside and more upside, than the gun bill they just passed," a Republican lobbyist told the Examiner, in reference to the bipartisan gun safety legislation that recently passed the Senate with 15 GOP votes. "In a vacuum, maybe you just blame Democrats for fearmongering and playing politics. But the Thomas concurrence put them in a tough spot made worse if they vote this down."
In years past, Republicans often gained a political advantage from opposing same-sex marriage. Times have changed, however, and the issue could potentially divide Republicans and give Democrats an edge in future elections.
Some House Republicans who voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act are facing criticism at home from influential social conservatives.
"Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the truth that marriage is between one man and one woman," read a statement from The Family Leader, a conservative Iowa group.
"Especially disappointing, three of Iowa’s representatives … voted to redefine marriage. We urge Senators Grassley and Ernst to oppose the redefinition of marriage."
The Family Leader's endorsement is highly coveted in Republican presidential caucuses, according to the Examiner.
Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is up for reelection this year.
Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, is one of the state's representatives who voted for the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday. Hinson tweeted that it was time for Democrats to focus on issues that actually matter to midterm voters.
"I voted for the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation that respects and maintains settled law," the freshman Iowa Republican posted on Twitter. "Now, Democrats need to focus on policies that will help working families: lowering costs for groceries & gas, securing our border to keep our communities safe & getting our economy working again."
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.