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The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has not only disrupted access to abortion across the country. It also raised concerns that other landmark rulings – including those legalizing birth control and same-sex marriage – could be next.
While Judge Samuel Alito pointed out in his opinion that the legal logic behind the roe deer decision would not apply to other cases, Judge Clarence Thomas suggested otherwise. He wrote in his concurring opinion that future cases “should reconsider all substantive due process precedents of this Court”, specifically listing those protecting contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
Democrats in Congress are now working to codify those protections into law, starting with marriage equality. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is at the forefront of this effort in the Senate.
The task is particularly personal for Baldwin, who in 2012 made history as the nation’s first openly gay person (and Wisconsin’s first woman) to be elected to the Senate.
“There’s an old adage that if you’re not in the room the conversation is about you, if you’re in the room the conversation is with you — and that makes all the difference,” says Baldwin. “I’m going through this right now. People who might have said this is just a political issue understand that for someone in the LGBTQ community, this is a personal matter.”
The 2015 Supreme Court decision in Oberfell v. Hodges established a right to same-sex marriage across the United States – a right that plaintiff Jim Obergefell now worries is on shaky ground. He is one of many LGBTQ advocates who want Congress to protect these rights at the federal level.
“If Congress can’t step up and say, these are the rights that we believe in, these are the fundamental rights, the human rights, the civil rights that deserve to be protected, if not by the Supreme Court under the law, then what is it worth fighting for?” he told NPR All things Considered last month.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine same-sex and interracial marriage in federal law, was passed by the House of Representatives last week. While 47 Republicans voted in favor, other GOP critics called the bill unnecessary, dismissing it as election-year policy and downplaying the threat of future Supreme Court action.
The bill now faces the challenge of going through an evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. All Democrats are already on board, and President Biden is urging the Senate to send it to his office for signature as soon as possible.
Baldwin is leading the charge to secure the 10 Republican votes needed to pass the measure. She worked behind the scenes to try to drum up support from her fellow Republicans, including confronting Sen. Marco Rubio in an elevator after hearing him call the bill “a stupid waste of time.”
She says five Republican senators have signaled support so far and is optimistic more will follow.
“The conversations are hopeful, and I will say that a number of Republicans have privately agreed to support the bill, but not publicly,” she said. morning editionIt’s Leila Fadel. “And so we don’t want to take it to the ground until we know we can pass the legislation, with the required 60 votes.”
Why Republicans who support the bill aren’t saying it in public
It’s hard for me to speak for everyone and their motivation, but I think there’s some uncertainty among my fellow Republicans as to whether the bill will actually go to a vote and receive a vote, leading to some reluctance to state publicly his position.
Why marriage equality seems to be a less divisive issue than abortion rights
In the years since the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land in Oberefell decision, more and more of my colleagues have friends, family, colleagues, staff members who are married to a same-sex partner. It really changes, I think, our focus. Although years ago there was some hesitation in supporting marriage equality, it is now part of most people’s daily reality to know someone who has married in order to ensure legal protection for his family.
[Public support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high of 70%, according to a Gallup poll released in June, the first in which a majority of Republicans approves.]
Why federal action is needed to protect marriage equality
It’s a different Supreme Court today than it was in 2015, and I certainly know many who are very worried about the certainty of their marriage. Marriage confers rights and responsibilities that enable you to protect your family, access your spouse, for example to hospital in the event of a medical emergency – without marriage you are a legal alien, with marriage you have this access. And it’s one of the only hundreds of examples of what a marriage confers, in terms of rights and responsibilities. I know that there is a very urgent need to protect marriage and marriage equality.
This interview was directed by Leila Fadel, produced by Shelby Hawkins and edited by HJ Mai.