Metro Weekly

Lindsey Graham Says Gay Marriage Should Be Decided by States

South Carolina senator says Democrats' concerns about the Supreme Court overturning marriage equality are a distraction from other issues.

Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham — Photo: Gage Skidmore

Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, echoed conservative talking points on marriage equality, arguing that the issue of whether same-sex couples can marry should be left up to individual states.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union program on Sunday, Graham participated in a debate with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut over the effects of a Democratic tax, spending, and climate bill that ultimately passed on a party-line vote.

At one point, the topic turned to whether the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn its own 2015 decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which nullified state bans on same-sex marriage. Graham indicated that the Supreme Court could potentially reverse its own precedent at some point, which would result in same-sex marriages being outlawed in 36 states that ban same-sex nuptials either by statute or constitutional amendment.

CNN host Dana Bash asked Graham if he was saying the decision should be overturned, to which he replied: “No, I’m saying I don’t think it’s going to be overturned.”

“Nor should it be?” asked Bash.

“Well, that would be up to the Court,” Graham said. “I think states should decide the issue of marriage.”

Bash asked him how many more issues he believes a “states’ rights” approach should be applied to, raising the case of Loving v. Virginia, which overturned state bans interracial marriages as an example. Graham replied in the negative when asked if he was suggesting whether the Loving case should be revisited, reports the Independent.

Graham then pivoted, accusing Democrats of talking about issues that are not relevant to or currently prioritized by most Americans, accusing them of trying to avoid issues where Democrats are viewed as weaker, like inflation and rising deficits. 

“We’re talking about constitutional decisions that are still in effect,” Graham said, trying to downplay the issue of the Supreme Court reversing precedent. “But if you’re going to ask me to have the federal government take over defining marriage, I’m going to say no.”

Graham’s comments echo those made by some Republican congressmen, including one who was recently accused of hypocrisy for attending his gay son’s wedding after voting against the Respect for Marriage Act when it came up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, gaining the support of 47 Republicans.

Yet despite its bipartisan support, the bill, which would codify the right of any American to enter a same-sex union and have it recognized by the government, has been criticized by religious conservatives as “distracting” from other issues ahead of this year’s midterm elections in November. Additionally, supporters have had trouble gaining at least 10 Republican votes that would be needed to defeat a potential filibuster of the legislation in the U.S. Senate, which has yet to bring up the issue.

Graham’s comments also echo similar ones made by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz regarding same-sex marriage. In a recent podcast, Cruz opined that the Supreme Court should have left the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage up to individual states, even though he does not believe the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court currently has the stomach to overturn past precedent in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.

Yet at the same time, Graham’s statement that he would hope that the court overturns Obergefell seems at odds with his contention that attempts to undo same-sex marriage are “not happening.” Supporters of marriage equality have argued that the Supreme Court cannot be trusted to respect precedent, meaning Congress must affirmatively pass laws to protect LGBTQ rights.

At the same time, some conservative state attorney generals seem eager to push for the repeal of Obergefell, or even go after other LGBTQ rights cases. For instance, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said he will defend Texas’s anti-sodomy law criminalizing gay sex if the high court overturns a 2003 decision in another case dealing with privacy rights. 

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