Senate vote to protect same-sex marriage reflects years-long policy shift


Twenty-six years ago, the US Senate overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act, a law widely supported by the American public that defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Republicans had found a corner issue they would use for more than a decade to divide Democrats between their liberal base and their swing voters. Eight years later, then-President George W. Bush made “marriage protection” a central part of his successful re-election bid in 2004. “The voice of the people must be heard,” a- he said, proposing a constitutional amendment to maintain marriage between opposite-sex couples.

But the voice of the people, as it turned out, was still moving. A bipartisan group of 61 senators spoke loudly on Tuesday, signaling a near-total upheaval in the once-dominant political dynamic when they voted to effectively overturn the 1996 law. The Respect for Marriage Act, once passed through the House and signed into law by President Biden, will help protect the recognition of same-sex marriages, imposed by the US Supreme Court in 2015. Oberfelfell v. Hodges decision, against future legal challenges.

While cultural divides continue to drive politics, marriage has long ceased to be a defining social debate. Donald Trump has issued conflicting statements about his support for same-sex marriage during his presidential campaigns. The Republican Party Now openly famous Pride Month and woos LGBTQ voters. Socially conservative activists have moved on to other fights, such as debates over transgender student-athletes. Religious institutions such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported the religious freedom provisions in the bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

But the success of same-sex marriage advocates has not ended the fight for greater legal protections for LGBTQ people, which were subjected to a wave of threats and violence during the last years. Debates over how schools should teach about gender and sexual orientation have become a hot topic in the midterm elections, as has a debate over whether transgender women can participate in women’s sports. Democratic efforts to pass the Equality Act, which would provide protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people, have yet to garner significant Republican support.

Barbara Simon, senior director of GLAAD, said she was particularly concerned about a “constant drumbeat of misinformation” targeting LGBTQ communities and individuals, such as false accusations that LGBTQ people and their allies are “preparing” the children.

Still, Tuesday was largely a day of celebration for advocates for the protection of same-sex marriage. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.), who as a congressman supported the 1996 law banning same-sex marriage, said his first call after the passage of the Bill on Tuesday would be addressed to his daughter, who is expecting a child with her same-sex spouse in the New Year.

“Today a new day has come for them,” Schumer said. He added that his grandson would “grow up in a more tolerant, inclusive and loving world”.

Such unequivocal positions by prominent politicians, including Democrats, have long been considered politically untenable. When he signed DOMA, President Bill Clinton Express conflicting feelings. “I have vigorously opposed any form of discrimination,” he wrote, to allow his re-election campaign to advertise on Christian radio boasting of his opposition to gay and lesbian weddings.

The 2008 Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama also opposed same-sex marriage, a plank that his top political adviser David Axelrod later described as a “compromised position” based not on belief but on belief. political opportunism.

Gallup poll shows support for same-sex marriage has risen from 27% of Americans in 1996 to 71% this year. This puts same-sex marriage in the same category as other near-definitive societal transformations, such as public support for interracial marriage that Pink from 4% in 1958 to 94% today, and the legalization of marijuana, which Pink from 12% in 1969 to 68% today.

“All the fearmongering that’s come from opponents of marriage equality on the right – ‘This is going to be the end of modern families.’ This is going to be the end of Western civilization “- none of this has been confirmed,” said Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage.” “The Democratic Party is unified on this, and it’s the Republican politicians who are torn between satisfying a significant anti-gay part of their coalition and the fact that public opinion has fundamentally reversed.”

Twelve Republican senators have joined a united Democratic caucus in supporting the measure that was passed on Tuesday, which also includes protections for interracial marriage and language making it clear that it does not protect polygamous unions and will not change existing protections of the religious freedom.

Tuesday’s Senate deliberations came after a vote in the U.S. House in July, when 47 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a similar proposal. Biden, who backed the 1996 law before announcing his support for same-sex marriage in 2011, has promised to sign the bill into law.

“How far we’ve come as a country, I think, is truly remarkable,” said Naomi Goldberg, deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project, a nonpartisan think tank that has tracked anti-LGBTQ policies since 2006. Passage of the bill is “a reminder of the hard work we have done and what is possible,” Goldberg added.

Tuesday’s vote for the Respect for Marriage Act was prompted by Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s June decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion established decades ago in Roe vs. Wade. Thomas argued that court precedents that rely on a similar constitutional analysis should also be revisited, including the 2015 court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and previous rulings that struck down sodomy and access laws. to contraceptives.

The bill passed Tuesday does not immediately change the legal status of same-sex marriages or require states to perform same-sex marriages. But if Thomas and his legal allies are successful in reconsidering previous court rulings, the new law would maintain federal recognition of same-sex marriage and require states to recognize such marriages in other states.

After the vote in the House this summer, a bipartisan group of five senators, including the first openly gay person elected to the Senate, Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), quickly began working behind the scenes to accelerate at least 10 Republicans to beat the House’s 60-vote filibuster threshold. They saw an opportunity to reassure Americans in same-sex marriages that the Supreme Court could not invalidate their marriages if they also decided to annul the Oberefell previous.

Several Republicans have said they want to support the bill, but fear it won’t do enough to reassure religious groups that they won’t be punished for not supporting same-sex marriage. The group tweaked the bill to address those concerns, then pushed the vote back after the midterm elections, when some Republicans said they would feel more comfortable taking a potentially contentious vote.

In mid-November, 12 Republicans joined 50 Democrats to push the bill forward, including surprising allies such as Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.), who had a zero rating from the advocacy group rights activist, the Human Rights Campaign during his time in the House, and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who ran less than a decade ago to ban gay marriage.

“These are turbulent times for our nation,” Lummis told the Senate, explaining that his vote was aimed at making the country less divided and more tolerant. “For the sake of our nation today and its survival, we are doing well in taking this step.”

Baldwin said the legislation would ease the “anxieties and fears” of same-sex and interracial couples following the Dobbs abortion decision.

“We’re not pushing this legislation to go down in history,” Baldwin said Tuesday. “We are doing this to make a difference for millions and millions of Americans.”

Republicans who voted against the measure argued it was unnecessary, given that they did not believe the Supreme Court would overturn it, or said it did not sufficiently protect religious freedom.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) listed numerous groups that are against the bill, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and said the bill puts “religious freedom at risk.” for many Americans. Other Republican senators, including Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, echoed similar concerns.

The new federal law leaves rules intact in 35 states, where same-sex marriages are banned in their constitution, state law, or both, according to a recent Pew report. Those laws could come back into effect if the Supreme Court overturns its 2015 ruling, raising concern for people like Josh Roth, a 33-year-old fundraiser living in Orlando. Roth said if marriage equality became federal law, it would only temporarily make him feel more secure.

Roth said he’s worried his home state will challenge federal protections. The Republican Legislature quietly put aside a proposal earlier this year to repeal a law on the books banning same-sex marriages in the state. Continued political uncertainty shaped her own decision to marry her longtime partner. They got engaged last August, but after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June, Roth and her partner discussed the need to move up their wedding date.

“If there’s a state in the union that’s going to try to challenge Oberefellit’s going to Florida,” Roth said.

As debate continues over whether to limit discussions of LGBTQ issues in schools and how to address transgender issues, some LGBTQ advocates say there are lessons to be learned from the success of same-sex marriage.

“We’ve spent two decades, now three decades, educating about marriage equality and what it means to be in a same-sex relationship,” said David Stacy, government affairs manager at the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBTQ. “These are concepts that people are still familiarizing themselves with.”

Marriage equality, said Simon of the group GLAAD, is “a big success – but that’s not all.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *