Terry H. Schwadron
July 26, 2022
As a reality check, any assessment of the currently divisive issue before the U.S. Senate to encode the right to same-sex marriage — and interracial marriage — needs to point out hypocrisies that run well beyond the politics of the matter.
As we know, the Senate needs 60 votes to pass the already House-passed bill to codify protections for same-sex marriage into federal law. That means that 10 Republican senators must join the 50 Democrats, and there currently are fewer than 10 who will commit to support.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which also protects for interracial marriages, says that a marriage must be recognized under federal law if the marriage was legal in the state where it took place. The bill also would enact additional legal safeguards for married couples intended to prevent discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity or national origin, including empowering the attorney general to pursue enforcement actions.
The proposal is meant as a proactive shield through affirmative legislation so that the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority cannot claim in future rulings that the right to same-sex marriage was allowed only by a privacy principle which those judges said was wrongly decided in abortion cases. Part of the judicial argument was that there never was an affirmative congressional vote on abortion rights.
CNN called all 50 Republican senators and got a list of which offices are for, against or delaying decision. Basically, only four Republican senators say yes right now, eight say no, and the rest either said they are holding back on deciding or did not respond. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he’s waiting to hear back from Republican senators before calling a vote.
Separately, a similar rights bill to protect contraceptives sales moved more narrowly through the House and also faces problems in the Senate.
The No Votes
Generally, the eight firm “no” votes, including Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, are the very same senators who are standing on their hind legs to bay publicly at those cringing at the recent abortion decision for not following the spanking-new interpretation of law.
So, with a chance to acknowledge that same-sex marriage remains legal in these United States, it seems fair to ask why they would not want to underscore the current reality.
It feels a hypocritical stance against law, order and the current state of rights in this country, as well as a swipe against lifestyle choices that are not endorsed by a Christian, right-leaning, evangelical voter base.
Cruz has tried to both oppose the bill and then argue against himself, that it raises a question that is only hypothetical, since there has been no Supreme Court case accepted for judgment on the question. He argues for his colleagues that he believes the original court case, known as Obergefell v. Hodges, was badly decided.
Other Republicans among the no-vote group who include Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mario Rubio of Florida, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, said the bill is merely a distraction by Democrats from their otherwise failed domestic agenda.
That, too, feels hypocritical, since it has been a steady feed of cultural divisiveness from the political Right that has dominated this year, attacking how race and identity are taught in schools, going after books on library shelves, leading campaigns against what bathrooms transgender people should be allowed to use and the like.
It is also hypocritical for Senate Republicans to seek to block a bill that still relies on state approval of same-sex marriage, since deferring to the states has been a basic credo for the GOP. A Pew Trust survey said most states have laws banning same-sex marriage rules.
A New York Time survey showed that further anti-gay legislative proposals are abounding in red states.
Denying Reality and Hiding It
In the House, 47 Republicans broke with these theistic-based statements about who can legally be married to recognize reality. For these lawmakers, the dime may have dropped that gay people vote, contribute to political campaigns and run for office.
But an opinion article in Media Matters argued that the vote disguises that Republicans’ antipathy to equal rights for LGBTQ Americans is overwhelming and spreading.
In Texas, the state Republican convention voted last month to define homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice” and opposing “all efforts to validate transgender identity.” In a party platform plank titled “Homosexuality and gender issues,” the party suggested that LGBTQ people should not be legally protected from discrimination and that being gay or trans is a choice.
On Friday, the far-right House Freedom Caucus issued statements against the Respect for Marriage Act, calling it a “radical” Democratic attack on “traditional values and sacred institutions.”
At the end of the day, the argument by Senate Republicans is that the rights protection bill is unneeded because there is no challenging case pending or that state moves to bar same-sex marriage are meant to protect rather than public. But in reading the reasons offered, there is a distinct undercurrent of anti-gay reasoning.
Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas used his concurring abortion argument to all but invite a legal challenge to Obergefell as well as to cases creating a right to obtain contraceptives.
We should see it all as a cynical attack on rights not preferred by a rising white, Christian, rightist portion of our nation that is out to stamp every American way of living with its own values.
But they are camouflaging it amid high-touting congressional nuance. If we’re having a debate about a country that will resist sexual orientation, race, identity, rights and choice, let’s have it in the open.