Metro Weekly

400 Republicans Urge GOP Senators to Back Marriage Equality

More than 400 former and current Republican officials call on U.S. senators to support the Respect for Marriage Act.

Republicans, GOP,
Photo: Mihaela Rosu

More than 400 prominent Republicans have signed onto a letter urging Republican senators to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would enshrine the right to same-sex marriage into law.

The letter was released as part of a campaign led by the nonprofit Centerline Action, which has mounted a lobbying campaign to persuade Senate Republicans to support the bill.

Partnering with Centerline Action is Conservatives Against Discrimination, a coalition formed by Freedom for All Americans, an organization aimed at passing federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.

“As Republicans and conservatives, we believe strong families and lasting relationships strengthen communities, and civil marriage is a fundamental freedom central to individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the letter reads. “We stand with the 71 percent of Americans today, including a majority of registered Republicans, who support the freedom to marry for all Americans.

“Together, we call on the U.S. Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act and reaffirm that marriage for gay and lesbian couples is settled law,” the letter continues. “Passing the Respect for Marriage Act will remove any uncertainty for the more than one million Americans who are building families, taking on the responsibilities and commitment associated with marriage, and caring for the one they love. 

“Simply put, the Respect for Marriage Act treats all American families as each of us would want to be treated.”

Among the signatories are Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker; Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz; Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea; former U.S. Reps. Bob Inglis (S.C.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Jim Kolbe (Ariz.), Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Mary Bono (Calif.), and Susan Brooks (Ind.); Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump administration employee and host of ABC’s The View; Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman and campaign manager of former President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign; Jay Timmons, the president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Barbara Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush.

As The Washington Post noted, the Republicans who have signed onto the letter have varying political ideologies, ranging from Donald Trump loyalists like lobbyist David Urban, pollster Tony Fabrizio, and Charles Moran, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans LGBTQ political group, to Trump skeptics like Griffin and former U.S. Reps. Susan Molinari (N.Y.) and Connie Morella (Md.).

Moran, speaking with the Post, recounted how Log Cabin has been lobbying GOP senators who are potential “yes” votes, including the retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), who is running for re-election and has said he won’t support the bill in its current form, after having previously claimed he saw “no reason to oppose it.”

Moran told the Post that he thought senators were facing pressure from a vocal minority of Republicans who feel emboldened after the Supreme Court struck down the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade in June. But he believes that Johnson — and potentially other senators — will come around to support the bill if it is amended to address religious liberty concerns.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) is currently leading the effort, along with Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), to amass support for the Respect for Marriage Act within the Republican Senate caucus. In order to overcome a potential filibuster, the bill’s backers need to win the support of at least 10 GOP senators, who, when added to the 50 Democrats currently serving in the U.S. Senate, would reach the magical number of 60 needed to start, and shut off, debate on the bill. 

Many elected Republicans — including Johnson — have claimed that the Respect for Marriage Act is an election-year stunt by Democrats to rally their base ahead of what promises to be challenging midterm elections.

 Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for Johnson, told WXOW that the senator believes the bill is “unnecessary” because the Supreme Court is unlikely to overturn its past precedent in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, which struck down existing state bans on same-sex marriage.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe this summer, Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, claimed that it did not signal the high court’s intention to overturn other decisions establishing rights that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution — on the grounds that abortion is different because it deals with a human life. But Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to revisit past cases that have established the unenumerated “right” to privacy, including the Obergefell decision.

The uncertainty of where the court may go, as well as distrust that the court’s current justices won’t simply overturn Obergefell based on their personal whims, has led Democrats to push for the Respect for Marriage Act.

Proponents argue that if Congress affirmatively declares a right to same-sex marriage, it will be much more difficult to reinstate state-level bans on the practice, as could occur with a future overturn of Obergefell.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has previously indicated he intends to call a vote on the Respect for Marriage Act in the “coming weeks” but has a limited window in which to pass the measure before focusing on more pressing issues like a government funding bill and judicial nominations.

To assuage the concerns of Republican senators, a group of five, including Collins and Baldwin, have begun crafting language addressing concerns about the religious liberty of individuals who disagree with same-sex marriage.

If approved by the Senate, the amended bill and its revised language would have to be approved once again by the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed an earlier version of the bill in July, with 47 Republicans voting in favor of it.

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