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Marriage equality is now an issue for 2022 and beyond
Ted Cruz called for overturning Obergefell. House Democrats forced the GOP to take a stand, causing turmoil among Republicans. Now Democrats must force a Senate vote.
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Yesterday, MAGA Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who represents a ruby red district in upstate New York and is third in line in the House GOP leadership, broke with her leadership colleagues, voting with all Democrats for the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed.
The bill repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (which is still on the books, though it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013), and requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages and interracial marriages.
It was a pretty surprising “yay” vote coming from a a woman who was formerly considered a “moderate” but left any principles behind when she became a hard-core MAGA cultist during Trump’s administration — defending him during his first impeachment, and getting a national platform among MAGA. Stefanik continues to be one of his greatest defenders, promoting the Big Lie and lashing out at the January 6th committee.
And Stefanik just last week voted against codifying Roe v. Wade into law, and even against a bill protecting patients’ rights to travel to other states for abortion.
But Stefanik was one of 47 Republicans who voted for the Respect for Marriage Act. The legislation was of course inspired by Clarence Thomas’ concurrence in the Dobbs case overturning Roe v. Wade, in which he said same-sex marriage, sodomy and even contraception rulings now need to be “reconsidered.”
Stefanik, who is grooming herself to be majority leader, has now been thrust into a battle with Christian nationalists, who will exact their revenge on every one of those 47 Republicans who voted for the bill. And those who voted against it will face campaigns this year in which Democrats brand them as extremists. That wouldn’t hurt Stefanik in her district, so it does raise the question of why she voted for it and angered the national base, considering she’s shown herself to have no morals.
We can only speculate that Stefanik perhaps has relatives who are LGBTQ or perhaps has a major gay donor. Whatever the case, the vote put her in a an uncomfortable place, as it did every Republican. They have to pander to the base but also have to worry about how this issue plays in a general election and among wealthy donors in a country in which an overwhelming majority support marriage equality.
And that’s why Democrats must force a vote in the U.S. Senate, where we’re already getting indications from the Democratic leadership that they may not have “time” for it — which is ludicrous.
Republicans in the Senate are worried about it. Mitch McConnell, who is in an interracial marriage himself, refused to offer a position on it.
Deranged MAGA Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who’s facing a tough re-election challenge, also wouldn’t say where he stood when asked by reporters. The MAGA base would go berserk if he voted for it, perhaps dooming him. But if he votes no it would be a mighty weapon against him by his Democratic opponent in a state that has been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights.
Senate Republicans are in fact splitting. Senator Susan Collins of Maine is a co-sponsor of the bill, while Ohio’s retiring Senator Rob Portman joined yesterday.
Meanwhile, over the weekend Senator Ted Cruz of Texas created headlines when he made a grab for the Christian nationalist vote in his quest to become president in 2024, suggesting that Obergefell should be overturned and marriage equality sent back to the states.
Cruz now set the bar for 2024 GOP presidential candidates. And other GOP senators who are likely running for president, like Josh Hawley of Missouri (who also didn’t want to answer the question this week) and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, would be put on the spot if the Senate holds a vote on the Respect for Marriage Act.
And will other 2024 likely GOP presidential candidates, like Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, now follow Cruz’s lead? You better believe they will.
But what about Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida? He’s been trying to craft a more clever anti-LGBTQ push, with his “don’t say gay” law, focusing the issue as it pertains to schools and children, which can always induce fear in voters less familiar with or educated about LGBTQ issues. Just as he’s stayed very quiet on passing further restrictions on abortion after the fall of Roe — Florida passed a 15-week abortion ban in recent months while Christian nationalists are now demanding a full ban — he’s not said anything about Obergefell, which is of course about the rights that adult couples should have.
While it would certainly galvanize the MAGA base in GOP presidential primaries, a call for sending same-sex marriage back to the states would be very extreme in a presidential general election, something DeSantis likely sees, and he also knows it’s a tough sell in Florida for his re-election campaign.
And, as stated, the same is true for GOP senators and Senate candidates running this fall. For all these reasons, the Senate must have a vote on the bill the House just passed. Yet Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hasn’t committed to it.
And Senator Dick Durbin said the schedule is tight and we have “more priorities.”
You’ve got to be kidding me!
This is a no-brainer and it will take very little time to bring this to a a vote. Let the Republicans block it with a filibuster — and then use it against every one of those who do. There’s even a possibility it could pass, as eight more senators beyond Collins and Portman could feel they need to vote for it, and McConnell may be worried that it messes with his attempt to reach out to suburban voters if it fails.
Senator Todd Young of Indiana this morning also refused to say how he’d vote, while Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said he “probably will” vote for it. Senator John Thune of South Dakota told CNN it would likely pass considering what happened in the House yesterday.
That would be a win-win, since we’d have this vital legislation passed and Republicans would be split heading into elections, once again choosing between the extremists and the vast majority of Americans. Whether or not it passes, it would further plunge the GOP into chaos, with the base infuriated, and, if it actually does pass, perhaps would depress turnout among Christian nationalists.
There is absolutely no reason not to vote on this bill in the Senate, and every reason for Democrats in the Senate to push it through and make the GOP take a stand.