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At least 5 Senate Republicans say they'll likely support same-sex marriage bill

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At least five Senate Republicans have indicated that they plan to support the House-passed “Respect for Marriage Act,” drawing ire from social conservative groups for backing a bill that would codify the redefinition of marriage into law.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify the 2015 United States Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide into federal law, passed the Democrat-controlled House last week. Forty-seven Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the measure, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and require all states to recognize same-sex marriages. 

The push to pass the legislation stems from concern that the Supreme Court will revisit the Obergefell case, as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested it should in a concurring opinion in the June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. Thomas chastised the idea of “substantive due process,” which was used to justify the assertion that the U.S. Constitution contained a right to an abortion, as a “legal fiction.”

While Thomas expressed a desire to “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” including Obergefell, he thought the court should determine whether “other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.” At the same time, he agreed with the majority opinion in Dobbs’ declaration that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

The Respect for Marriage Act now awaits action in the Senate, where most legislation requires 60 votes to pass. In order for the bill to become law, it would need to secure the support of all 50 Senate Democrats and at least 10 Republican senators. So far, at least five Senate Republicans have indicated that they are likely or certain to support the bill. 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, serves as a sponsor of the legislation and released a statement in support of the measure when it was first introduced. “This bill is another step to promote equality, prevent discrimination, and protect the rights of all Americans,” she said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told CNN’s Manu Raju that “Not only would I like to see Roe, Casey and Griswold on contraception codified but I have also made clear my support for gay marriage years ago.” She vowed to “look at what the House is doing and see what that might mean here on the Senate side.” In brief remarks to Raju, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said he “probably will” support the bill. 

Raju identified Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, as a “backer of [the] same-sex marriage bill” in a tweet Thursday. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “Even though I feel the Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary, should it come before the Senate, I see no reason to oppose it.” 

Several Republican senators remain undecided on the bill but a handful have explicitly come out in opposition to it. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., called it a “silly messaging bill” while speaking to Raju. At the same time, the CNN correspondent listed Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as confirmed “Nos” on the Respect for Marriage Act. 

Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., responded to CNN’s inquiries about their position on the bill by characterizing themselves as probable or definite “Nos.”

The sizable amount of Republican support for the Respect for Marriage Act in the House and the noncommittal responses by many Republicans about their intentions on whether or not to vote for the bill does not sit well with Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative think-tank Family Research Council. 

In an op-ed for The Christian Post, Perkins warned that support for the Respect for Marriage Act could “eat into the margins the GOP needs in November,” referring to the upcoming midterm elections.

“We have a Republican Party willing to go to the mat for sports but seemingly unwilling to stand up for an institution whose redefinition has ignited a firestorm of persecution in America — the same redefinition that’s at the bitter root of so many evils we’re fighting today in school classrooms, public libraries, [and] our daughters’ locker rooms,” he wrote. 

Perkins maintained that “If Republicans want to stick their finger in the cultural winds to decide where they stand on timeless truths, then they are throwing away everything the American people have come to respect about today’s party — their courage, their common sense, their conviction.”

Data collected by Public Religion Research Institute in 2021 revealed that 68% of Americans support same-sex marriage. Majorities oppose same-sex marriage in Mississippi (55%) and Arkansas (52%) while only a plurality (49%) support it in Alabama. 

The Democrat-controlled House has also approved the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify the 1965 Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut finding a right to contraception into law. Griswold was another “substantive due process” case singled out by Thomas for possible reconsideration. The Right to Contraception Act received only eight votes from Republicans, significantly fewer than the Respect for Marriage Act.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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