Saturday, July 30, 2022
Democrats have put a series of bills on the House floor that would protect Americans’ access to abortion and contraception, ability to cross state lines to obtain an abortion, and marriage equality. Republicans have voted overwhelmingly against all of them, with the most Republican defections coming on the bill to protect marriage equality. That split is an opportunity to protect one of the essential rights the conservative movement will continue urging their comrades on the Supreme Court to repeal.
Republican senators such as Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse, as well as conservative outlets such as National Review, have insisted that the Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary because there is no case currently on its way to the Supreme Court that has the potential to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges . . . .
This is nonsense. The majority reasoning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, is one that would invalidate Obergefell and allow states to destroy hundreds of thousands of families, notwithstanding the majority’s weak and insincere disclaimer that the decision applied only to abortion. In his concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas took aim at Obergefell among other decisions as one granting rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and therefore a decision that should be overturned. There is absolutely no reason to believe that fundamental rights of same-sex couples are safe. Conservative activists want Obergefell overturned, and will try to make it happen at the first opportunity, because they do not believe that same-sex couples should have the right to marry. Reassurances to the contrary are meaningless, because the same sources that say these rights are not now at risk said similar things about Roe. It is also political strategy: Because they know that repealing marriage equality is an unpopular position, they wish to deny what they are doing right up until the moment it becomes possible. . . . Republicans in Congress are now on record as overwhelmingly supportive of the agenda Thomas outlined and the society it would impose.
The reason some Republican senators are complaining about the existence of a marriage-equality bill is that they do not want to be forced to take a real position on the issue. They do not want to publicly take the unpopular position, even among the Republican rank and file, that these families should be destroyed, but they also do not want to do what is necessary to protect them and potentially earn the wrath of right-wing media and other members of their political coalition. This is cowardice, but also a GOP plan for as long as they can hold the Court: to avoid taking risky stands in Congress while the conservative justices act as a super-legislature that imposes an unpopular right-wing legal agenda on the entire country. . . . If marriage equality were truly a “non-issue,” passage of the bill would be assured; GOP legislators are waiting for the Court to do their dirty work for them.
Opposing this legislation on pretextual grounds is not even a particularly effective form of avoidance. There is no functional difference between opposing a bill ensuring that marriage rights continue to be recognized because you hate same-sex couples, or because there is currently no case or controversy in the federal courts.
Hiding behind federalism on marriage equality is a political maneuver of relatively recent vintage—Republicans wanted a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage right up until the point it became politically inconvenient. Whatever these politicians privately believe is irrelevant: Their position is that same-sex couples should be deprived of the “vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness” that these elected officials currently enjoy.
Federal legislation would not prevent the 6–3 right-wing majority on the Supreme Court from invalidating these rights, but it would raise the political cost of doing so for the Court, and close off one avenue of legal argument for those who want to hide their opposition to marriage equality behind complaints about past judicial activism. Even a slim chance that such legislation would make enough of the justices think twice about trying to invalidate the right to marriage makes the bill worth passing.
Contrary to Sasse’s blubbering about dividing the country, if the legislation were passed and successfully dissuaded the Supreme Court from trying to invalidate marriage equality, it would leave Democrats without a popular issue with which to criticize Republicans. And that’s good, because the duty of the Democratic Party should be to make sure their constituents—and by extension, all Americans—can retain their basic rights, not to have culture-war grievances to run on forever.
If Congress passes the Respect for Marriage Act, codifying marriage equality into federal law, the Supreme Court could strike it down as unconstitutional under the same states-rights framework it used to overturn Roe. And Congress should pass the bill anyway.
Thanks to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s leadership, Virginia is no longer the best state in America in which to do business.
CNBC’s 2022 list of “America’s Top States for Business” ranked Virginia third, behind North Carolina and Washington state. Early in his tenure, the governor has managed to topple Virginia from the No. 1 position it won in unprecedented back-to-back rankings under Democratic leadership. In 2021 — with a Democratic “trifecta” — Virginia held on to its No. 1 ranking while pulling the commonwealth up 27 spots in Oxfam’s report on the best states for workers. Democrats know that making Virginia work for its people is good for business, too.
Unfortunately, Youngkin’s presidential aspirations have kept the governor laser-focused on culture-war issues that poll well among Republican primary voters in Iowa — not building the economy or supporting working Virginians. As CNBC’s business rankings highlight, leadership that makes Virginia a less welcoming place for workers makes it less welcoming to business, too.
Youngkin’s top priority as governor has been to erase equity from state government, and businesses are taking note. One of his first acts in office was to literally take the word “equity” out of the governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He proceeded to set up a statewide snitch line for teachers who acknowledge race and racism. When Youngkin’s appointed health commissioner denied the impact of structural racism on infant and maternal health disparities and claimed that discussing racism “alienates White people,” Youngkin refused to take action. This spring, Youngkin vetoed a bill to study disparities in business that had previously passed the General Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s no wonder why Virginia’s score in CNBC’s “Life, Health, and Inclusion” category plummeted between 2021 and 2022. Even Lego was set to invest $1 billion in a new factory in Chesterfield — a deal begun during former governor Ralph Northam’s (D) term — recently revealed some trepidation over Youngkin’s stance on racial equity.
Next, with marriage rights under existential threat at the federal level, an unprepared Youngkin appeared on national television misquoting the Virginia Constitution and refusing to say whether he would act to codify protections for same-sex marriage. He has indicated on record that he does not personally support same-sex marriage. Another byproduct of buying into the anti-LGBTQ hysteria is that it’s bad for the economy. Last year, nearly 300 national companies signed on to a statement warning that anti-LGBTQ legislation would influence which states they decide to invest in. Nonetheless, all indications are that Youngkin will continue to pick his own political aspirations over the best interests of Virginians and Virginia’s economy. It’s no surprise, then, that “economy” was another CNBC category in which Virginia’s score has fallen since Youngkin took office.
Virginia also lost stature in 2022 with a lower “workforce” score. Besides publicly criticizing our community college system and cutting $20 million from his predecessor’s G3 “Get a Skill, Get a Job, Get Ahead” workforce development program, Youngkin has attacked Virginia’s workforce by threatening their bodily autonomy — and women are paying attention. Days before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Youngkin introduced a budget amendment to prevent low-income Virginians from accessing abortion care even with the most severe fetal diagnoses.
Democratic governors in other states are looking to recruit businesses from states that would restrict their employees’ bodily autonomy, as Youngkin is hoping to do.
Democrats handed Youngkin record surpluses and a booming economy. Six months later, our growth is stalling as businesses reconsider whether they want to invest in a state whose governor is willing to defund its infrastructure and education system while alienating its workforce. The problem with Youngkin’s backward social agenda is that his positions are cruel and out of step with the will of most Virginians. It is simply the natural result that our economy and national reputation will suffer the consequences. But the governor doesn’t really care what happens to Virginia’s people or its economy because he isn’t that interested in Virginia; his sights are set on the White House.
Friday, July 29, 2022
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Thank you, Viktor Orban, for showing us where the American right is heading.
The Hungarian strongman, who derailed his country’s nascent democracy, has been a darling of the MAGA crowd for his anti-immigrant policies. He has enjoyed a fawning interview and favorable broadcasts from Budapest by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, and he has been invited as a featured speaker to next week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas alongside a who’s who of Republican senators, governors and members of Congress, as well as former
presidentDonald Trump himself.
But Orban made things awkward for his American friends a few days ago. During a July 23 address (in which he said immigration should be called “population replacement or inundation”) he gave voice to the belief underlying his nationalism: He opposes the mixing of races.
“Migration has split Europe in two — or I could say that it has split the West in two,” he said, after commending to his listeners a 50-year-old racist treatise. “One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations. They are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples.” He went on to contrast that with “our world,” in which “we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race.”
That was too much even for Orban’s longtime adviser Zsuzsa Hegedus, who resigned and lambasted the prime minister for “a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels.” She said the speech could “please even the most bloodthirsty racists” and suggested he was “advocating an openly racist policy that is now unacceptable even for the Western European extreme right.”
But not for the American right! CPAC’s organizer confirmed to me on Wednesday that Orban is still scheduled to address the group next week. . . . Orban’s name remained on CPAC’s speakers list, along with Trump; some two dozen GOP House members; Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Bill Hagerty (Tenn.); Fox News’s Sean Hannity; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; and former Trump aides including Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.
These leaders shouldn’t say they’re surprised to be sharing a stage with a man leading the fight against “peoples of mixed race.” Last year, CPAC canceled an appearance by a speaker who had referred to Judaism as a “complete lie” that was “made up for political gain.” After the Guardian reported that the CPAC conference in Budapest featured a speaker who had previously called Jews “stinking excrement,” referred to the Roma population as “animals” and used racist epithets for Black people, . . . . (The program for the Budapest CPAC, from which many media organizations were banned, included live or virtual addresses by Trump, Carlson, four Republican members of Congress and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.)
Republicans have hailed Orban as “Trump before Trump” (Bannon), whose government is doing “so many positive things” (Sen. Ron Johnson). Among the things it has been doing: seizing control of the judiciary and media, banning the depiction of homosexuality, demonizing Jewish billionaire George Soros, expelling asylum seekers and erecting a wire fence on the border, forcing out the country’s top university, and halving the size of parliament and redrawing districts to keep itself in power.
At its core, Orban’s rule has been about sustaining, and being sustained by, white nationalism. His July 23 speech was an extended articulation of the “great replacement” conspiracy idea . . . Orban railed against a “mixed-race world” in which “European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe.” He warned that “Islamic civilization” is “constantly moving toward Europe” and is now “occupying and flooding the West.”
“This is why we stopped the Turks at Vienna,” he said, citing the 1683 battle between a European alliance and the Ottoman Empire. “This is why, in still older times, the French stopped the Arabs at Poitiers.” This was a reference to the Battle of Tours — in the year 732, when a Frankish Christian ruler defeated an army of Moors invading from Spain.
It was good of Orban to spell that out, because now we know what Hungary’s white nationalists — and their American fan boys at CPAC — have in mind when they rage against immigration and the “great replacement.” They want to take us back to the Dark Ages.
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
The Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would enshrine the right to same-sex and interracial marriage in federal law, is only four short pages long. Yet in the week since the House passed the measure on a bipartisan vote and Democratic leaders indicated they planned to put it on the Senate floor, few Republican senators have found the time to read it — or so they said Tuesday.
The reality is, senators have little trouble understanding what the bill does: It repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and requires states to extend “full faith and credit” to any marriage between two people, regardless of the “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals” — mirroring the action that the Supreme Court took in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriages nationally.
Despite the fact that 7 in 10 Americans now approve of same-sex marriage, the issue remains a fraught one for Republicans. They still count the religious right as a key part of their electoral coalition, and they remain wary of being baited by Democrats into highlighting what some of them believe is a purely speculative threat to same-sex marriage rights nationally when Republicans would much rather be talking about rising inflation and a softening economy.
But in the eyes of Democrats, writing same-sex marriage into federal law became much more than a political stunt with last month’s Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion that had stood since the Roe v. Wade decision 49 years ago. Like the rights to interracial and same-sex marriage, the federal abortion right had been grounded in the constitutional theory of substantive due process that recognizes “unenumerated” rights such as the right to privacy.
“We’re in the post-Roe world, where marriage equality, contraceptive freedoms — it’s all on the table as far as the Supreme Court’s concerned,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “And this issue in particular is on the right-wing majority’s hit list. So as inconceivable as overturning Roe was just a year ago, this one has to be regarded as in jeopardy.”
A handful of Senate Republicans have already indicated that they are on board with the effort, including Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Thom Tillis (N.C.). A fifth Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), said last week that he had “no reason to oppose” the measure, while also accusing Democrats of “creating a state of fear over an issue in order to further divide Americans for their political benefit.”
Dozens of Republicans are expected to oppose the measure if it is brought up for a vote. Among those who said Tuesday that they would have no qualms in voting “no” was Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who said in a statement that the bill constituted “an attempt by Democrats to score political points by manufacturing hysteria and panic, in addition to escalating their ongoing attacks against the Court.”
But many are simply not taking a position. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is leading the wait-and-see parade, telling reporters Tuesday that he would continue to keep his powder dry until Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) schedules a vote. Asked about his position on the bill, McConnell said, “I’m not going to make an observation about that until the issue is actually brought up in the Senate.”
Behind the scenes, those senators are being lobbied by some of their colleagues, including Collins, Portman and Tillis, as well as the two Democratic senators who are openly members of the LGBTQ community, Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
“We’re just trying to work through it,” said Tillis. “At the end of the day, the members have to make their own decisions, but in my opinion, it’s very much unlike the bill that Sen. Schumer put on the floor for codifying Roe v. Wade. … This is a sincere codification of current law.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are under pressure from elements of their political coalition who are urging them to stand fast against the bill. A letter sent Tuesday to McConnell, signed by leaders of the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom [the latter two are certified hate groups] and dozens of other social conservative organizations and institutions, said the measure would “endanger people of faith” and have the effect of “silencing those with the long-held conviction that marriage between one man and one woman is essential to human flourishing.”
The religious right’s biggest ally in its quest to stop the bill from advancing might be an impending legislative pileup in the Senate, as well as a spate of health-related absences that could keep the Senate from mustering the 60 votes necessary to beat a filibuster. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) is recovering from hip-replacement surgery, while Murkowski and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.
“We are working real hard to get 10 Republican senators,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday. “Between that and the illnesses, we’re not there yet.” He did not list the same-sex marriage bill among his top priorities for action before the Senate begins its summer recess next week, instead listing bills to boost research and development investment, lower prescription drug prices and improve veterans’ health care.
“I think a number of them are hoping it will just go away,” Blumenthal said, recounting his own conversations with Republicans. “But when push comes to shove … I think if you put it on the floor today, it would pass. What I’m hearing is, ‘You know, our base is tough on this issue, but how can we possibly defy history?’ ”
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Three men, eyes closed and heads bowed, pray before a rough-hewn wooden cross. Another man wraps his arms around a massive Bible pressed against his chest like a shield. All throughout the crowd, people wave "Jesus Saves" banners and pump their fists toward the sky.
At first glance, these snapshots look like scenes from an outdoor church rally. But this event wasn't a revival; it was what some call a Christian revolt. These were photos of people who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, during an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The insurrection marked the first time many Americans realized the US is facing a burgeoning White Christian nationalist movement. This movement uses Christian language to cloak sexism and hostility to Black people and non-White immigrants in its quest to create a White Christian America.
A report from a team of clergy, scholars and advocates — sponsored by two groups that advocate for the separation of church and state — concluded that this ideology was used to "bolster, justify and intensify" the attack on the US Capitol.
Much of the House January 6 committee's focus so far has been on right-wing extremist groups. But there are plenty of other Americans who have adopted teachings of the White Christian nationalists who stormed the Capitol — often without knowing it, scholars, historians, sociologists and clergy say.
White Christian nationalist beliefs have infiltrated the religious mainstream so thoroughly that virtually any conservative Christian pastor who tries to challenge its ideology risks their career, says Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of the New York Times bestseller, "Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation."
The ideas are also insidious because many sound like expressions of Christian piety or harmless references to US history. But White Christian nationalists interpret these ideas in ways that are potentially violent and heretical. Their movement is not only anti-democratic, it contradicts the life and teachings of Jesus, some clergy, scholars and historians say.
Samuel Perry, a professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma who is authority on the ideology, calls it an "imposter Christianity." Here are three key beliefs often tied to White Christian nationalism.
A belief that the US was founded as a Christian nation
One of the banners spotted at the January 6 insurrection was a replica of the American flag with the caption, "Jesus is My Savior, Trump is My President."
Erasing the line separating piety from politics is a key characteristic of White Christian nationalism. Many want to reduce or erase the separation of church and state, say those who study the movement.
One of the most popular beliefs among White Christian nationalists is that the US was founded as a Christian nation; the Founding Fathers were all orthodox, evangelical Christians; and God has chosen the US for a special role in history.
But the notion that the US was founded as a Christian nation is bad history and bad theology, says Philip Gorski, a sociologist at Yale University and co-author of "The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy." "It's a half truth, a mythological version of American history," Gorski says. . . . . virtually none of them [the Founding Fathers] could be classified as evangelical Christians. They were a collection of atheists, Unitarians, Deists, and liberal Protestants and other denominations.
For evidence that the United States was founded as a secular nation, look no further than the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, an agreement the US negotiated with a country in present-day Libya to end the practice of pirates attacking American ships. It was ratified unanimously by a Senate still half-filled with signers of the Constitution and declared, "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on Christian religion."
A belief in a 'Warrior Christ'
Videos from the January 6 attack show a chaotic, tear-gas-soaked scene at the Capitol that looked more like a medieval battle. Insurrectionists punched police officers, used flagpoles as spears and smashed officers' faces against doors while a mob chanted, "Fight for Trump!" The attack left five people dead and nearly 140 law enforcement officers injured.
[T]hey follow a different Jesus than the one depicted in the Gospels, says Du Mez, who is also a professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University — a Christian school — in Michigan. They follow the Jesus depicted in the Book of Revelation, the warrior with eyes like "flames of fire" and "a robe dipped in blood" who led the armies of heaven on white horses in a final, triumphant battle against the forces of the antichrist.
White Christian nationalists have refashioned Jesus into a kick-butt savior who is willing to smite enemies to restore America to a Christian nation by force, if necessary, Du Mez and others say.
That was clear on January 6. Some insurrectionists wore caps emblazoned with "God, Guns, Trump" and chanted that the blood of Jesus was washing Congress clean. One wrote "In God We Trust" on a set of gallows erected at the Capitol.
That ends-justify-the means approach is a key part of White Christian nationalism, says Du Mez. It's why so many rallied behind former President Trump on January 6. She says he embodies a "militant White masculinity" that condones callous displays of power and appeals to Christian nationalists.
A belief there's such a person as a 'real American'
In the 2008 presidential election, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin introduced a new term to the political discourse. She talked about "the real America" and the "pro-America areas of this great nation." Since then, many conservative political candidates have used the term "real Americans" to draw contrasts between their supporters and their opposition.
Such language has been co-opted into a worldview held by many White Christian nationalists: The nation is divided between "real Americans" and other citizens who don't deserve the same rights, experts on White Christian nationalism say.
Gorski, author of "The Flag and the Cross," says he found in his research a strong correlation between White Christian nationalism and support for gerrymandering—an electoral process where politicians manipulate district lines to favor one party or, some critics say, race over another. He found similar support among White Christian nationalists for the Electoral College, which gives disproportionate political power to many rural, largely White areas of the country.
When White Christian nationalists claim an election was stolen, they are reflecting the belief that some votes don't count, he says.
Those who want the US to become a Christian nation face a huge obstacle: Most Americans don't subscribe to their vision of America.
The mainstreaming of White Christian nationalism comes as a growing number of Americans are rejecting organized religion. For the first time in the US last year, membership in communities of worship fell below 50%. Belief in God is at an all-time low, according to a recent Gallup poll.
On the surface, White Christian nationalism should not be on the ascent in America.
So White Christian nationalists look for salvation from two sources. One is the emboldened conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, where recent decisions overturning Roe vs. Wade and protecting school prayer offer them hope.
While some Americans fear the dangers of one-party rule, others like Pamela Paul, a columnist, warn of the Supreme Court instituting one-religion rule. "With their brand of religious dogma losing its purchase, they're imposing it on the country themselves," she wrote in a recent New York Times editorial.
The other source of hope for White Christian nationalists is a former occupant of the White House. Their devotion to him is illustrated by one of most striking images from the January 6 insurrection: A sign depicting a Nordic-looking Jesus wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat. . . . what the men carrying wooden crosses among the Capitol mob couldn't achieve on January 6, they might yet accomplish in 2024.
Monday, July 25, 2022
Sunday, July 24, 2022
In his decision to help gut Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell”—cases that enshrined Americans’ right to contraception, to intimate same-sex relationships, and to marriage equality. In the past week, Democrats have raced to codify same-sex marriage, culminating in Tuesday’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the House.
Now, the bill rests in the hands of the Senate, where it’s not yet clear if enough Republicans will support the bill and help it avoid a 60-vote filibuster. What would happen if it doesn’t pass? Currently, there are at least 32 states—Arizona, Louisiana, and Ohio among them—that have either constitutional amendments, state laws, or both that prohibit same-sex marriage. The Obergefell v. Hodges ruling rendered these defunct in 2015, but if the Supreme Court were to overturn that decision, same-sex marriage would be instantly banned in at least 25 of those states—putting thousands of couples at risk.
Marriages, of course, are more than just white cakes and wedding rings. Everything from child custody to property rights can depend on whether a couple is married. In fact, a 2004 study from the US Government Accountability Office found that there are 1,138 statutes and provisions where marriage status is a factor in receiving benefits, rights, or privileges. Before the legalization of same-sex marriage, gay couples often would face discrimination and have their rights denied by various legal bodies.
“From taxes to Social Security benefits to retirement benefits,” said Mary Bauer, the executive director of the Virginia ACLU. “(There are) all sorts of things that are built into our kind of structure of laws and systems. Spouses have a legal privilege that is incredibly important in many practical and moral ways. We’ve heard all sorts of all sorts of stories about families that are treated as though they are not families. ”
“There’s kind of a million ways that this plays out…people have to fight for the right to be recognized as their child’s parent,” she added. “That is, as we all regard now, nonsensical, discriminatory, bigoted, and unacceptable.”
And, if a state were to ban same-sex marriage in a potential post-Obergefell future, legal experts can’t quite predict what would happen to the LGBTQ couples who live there.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Kermit Roosevelt told PolitiFact. “I’m not sure there’s a historical precedent for how existing marriages get treated in such cases.”
Meanwhile, several conservative politicians have hinted that they want to end marriage equality. Last week, GOP Sen. Ted Cruz said that the Supreme Court was “clearly wrong” about the 2015 marriage equality ruling. His own state, Texas, has a whopper of a ban, prohibiting both marriages and civil unions between people of the same gender.
During a July 10 appearance on Face the Nation, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said that he would not be taking any steps to remove the homophobic language in the state’s constitution, falsely claiming Virginia law already protects same-sex marriage. He neglected to mention that Virginia has one of the most discriminatory bans in the country: Unlike other states, Virginia’s ban not only outlaws marriage and civil unions, but any contracts recognizing same-sex couples in a legal context.
“With that constitutional provision, what Virginia wanted to do was to erase LGBTQ people entirely,” Bauer said. “They should not be recognized as full human beings with their relationships recognized.”
She also encourages anyone living in a state where marriage rights are at risk to not only vote, but to support the grassroots organizations fighting for LGBTQ rights.
“We have enough time to do that before the Supreme Court is likely to take up this issue,” she said. “We need to move quickly. We need to move with a real sense of urgency.”
Mitt Romney doesn’t think it’s necessary. Richard Burr hasn’t read it. And Todd Young is “fixated” on microchips.
Those are some of the answers Republicans gave Wednesday on whether they’d back legislation writing same-sex marriage into law. And though Democrats want assurances the bill could pass the Senate before taking it up, Chuck Schumer may have to take a gamble to find out if the landmark legislation has the GOP support necessary to clear a 60-vote threshold.
“I’m keeping a very open mind,” said Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, one of many Republicans who said Wednesday they are either undecided or haven’t looked at the bill that would enshrine the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision as law. She added: “I have a good number of very close friends that are same-sex married.”
After the House passed a bill Tuesday codifying marriage regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity or country of origin — a response to the high court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade that won 47 GOP votes — Schumer now needs 10 Republican senators to send it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
He said on Wednesday he wants to put the legislation on the floor and has tasked Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first openly gay senator, with finding Republican support.
But if Republicans’ unenthusiastic responses on Wednesday are any indication, Schumer will probably have to put the bill on the floor in order to find out if it can pass. Senators like Burr, Romney, Ernst and Young aren’t giving hard “nos” by any means, but they aren’t racing to provide the 10 ironclad commitments Democrats would need to make same-sex marriage a law, either.
Since the Supreme Court struck down restrictions on same-sex marriage in 2015, the Republican Party has largely sidestepped litigating its own internal divisions over the matter. Many social conservatives and mainstream GOP politicians still oppose same-sex marriage, guaranteeing that the House’s bill would divide the GOP.
The 47 House Republicans who supported the legislation represent what would’ve been an unthinkable number just a decade ago, but still a solid minority of the GOP conference. Explaining his vote for the bill, ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) focused on its non-LGBTQ elements: “I don’t think that interracial marriages should be outlawed.”
And sure enough, across the Capitol, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said his party would surely try to filibuster the effort. Asked if the same-sex marriage bill would get the 10 Republicans needed to clear that obstacle, he said: “I hope not.”
The same-sex marriage bill came to the House floor as part of a broader strategy by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s caucus to respond to the high court’s elimination of a nationwide right to an abortion. In light of a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas that encouraged the Supreme Court to also revisit the Obergefell decision and another governing contraceptive access, House Democrats raced to show their support for protecting both same-sex marriage and birth control.
But over in the Senate, Democrats say they aren’t interested in burning valuable floor time on a political vote — they want to vote on a bill that would go to Biden’s desk. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said it’s a “good idea” to prioritize the legislation but is “of the mind right now that we should be taking the floor time on things that we could actually pass.”
“It’s important enough to take some time out of a recess,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “60 votes is within the realm of the possible.”
Democrats themselves spent much of the pre-Obergefell era divided on same-sex marriage . . . But these days, the party is pretty much united in support.
The Senate is set to go on a lengthy break in two weeks, however, and Democrats are trying to pass legislation that would pour money into the domestic microchip manufacturing industry, cut the prices on prescription drugs and admit Sweden and Finland into NATO. That leaves Schumer with a tough decision on whether to wedge same-sex marriage into the schedule before the summer break.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the lead GOP sponsor of the same-sex marriage legislation, said that the bill should get a vote, but there isn’t a rush.
Collins and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are co-sponsoring Baldwin’s legislation, which aides say is identical to the House’s version. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said he’s likely to support it, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she’s “absolutely looking at how we can support marriage equality.”
But other than a handful of hard nos from the likes of Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), most Republicans refused to tip their hands. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he’s waiting for his staff to review the legislation, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he needed to review it and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he’s not commenting on it yet.
Thomas’ push to reexamine previously decided cases “has opened a lot of doors that no other justice has walked through.”
That leaves Democrats well short of the 10 hard yeses they are hoping to find. Still, Republicans think that at some point, Schumer will probably force them to make up their minds on the Senate floor.
“I’m going to reserve comment on that,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “I’m assuming it’s coming.”
Meanwhile, LGBT Americans are left worrying about the future legality of their marriages. Gays and their straight allies need to call their Senators and make it clear to them that a "no" vote is unacceptable.