Senators Are Optimistic That Marriage Equality Bill Will Pass This Month

Senate negotiators working on a bill to codify marriage equality protections have expressed optimism that the legislation could be passed by the end of this month.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed earlier this summer in the House of Representatives, with just 47 Republicans voting in its favor. The bill faces greater obstacles in the Senate, however, where it needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster so it can be passed.

If the bill does pass in the Senate, President Joe Biden has said that he will sign it into law.

Some Republicans have expressed a willingness to support the bill, even if a majority of their caucus will not. But negotiators in the Senate say there is a growing possibility that they can secure the votes of 10 GOP senators, though that number has not yet been reached.

“We’re not there yet. I think we’ll get there, but we’re not there yet,” a GOP source said to The Hill.

Negotiators appear to be readying to bring the bill to consideration in the Senate as soon as next week, which could potentially result in the bill being passed before the end of September.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) announced on Wednesday that the bill will come to the Senate floor sometime in the “coming weeks.” Previously, Schumer was noncommittal on a timeline for introducing the legislation.

Schumer also disparaged Republican lawmakers like Sens. Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Marco Rubio (Florida), who have suggested that the vote is a political move ahead of the midterms and called it a “waste of time.”

“Let’s remember why a vote on the Respect for Marriage [Act] is necessary,” Schumer said, according to ABC News. “Millions upon millions of American women had their right taken away by the extremist MAGA Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision. And in a concurring opinion Justice [Clarence] Thomas opened the door for the Supreme Court going even further.”

Schumer’s comments refer to Thomas’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that dismantled the abortion rights protections that were established in Roe v. Wade. In that opinion, Thomas said that rulings based on privacy rights, like Roe, should be reexamined.

Thomas explicitly stated that the Supreme Court should relitigate Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 ruling that affirmed marriage equality rights.

In response, Democrats in the House have passed legislation codifying rights to abortion, birth control and marriage for same-sex couples. But these measures have stalled in the Senate.

In order to court Republicans who are on the fence about the marriage equality bill, Democrats have included an amendment on “religious freedom” that, depending on the final text of the bill, could be utilized by states to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), the lead sponsor of the bill and the first openly lesbian senator in U.S. history, tried to assure those worried about the possible amendment by noting that it would merely preserve “all existing precedent” when it comes to how religious groups or private businesses can treat LGBTQ people, according to The Dispatch editor Haley Byrd Wilt.

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