Schumer commits to marriage equality vote in “coming weeks”

Chuck Schumer commits to marriage vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, in Washington.
AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on September 7 committed to holding a vote on a marriage equality bill in the coming weeks as lawmakers continue their quest to protect marriage rights in the face of a conservative Supreme Court.

“A vote on marriage equality will happen on the Senate floor in the coming weeks,” Schumer said on September 7.

In July, the House of Representatives — including 47 Republican members — passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires states to respect those who are in same-sex marriages or interracial marriages. The bill would also formally repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which was already nixed by the courts but remains on the books.

The bill’s fate in the Senate is not yet clear, but lawmakers are striking an optimistic tone and the vote would — at the very least — expose the “no” votes at a time when an outright majority of the country supports marriage equality.

Still, lawmakers are hoping to secure the 10 Republican votes they need to pass the bill. Earlier this summer, Schumer tasked Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and out lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a Democrat, with the responsibility of gathering 10 Republican votes needed to pass the bill.

The pair met on September 7 with Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and out bisexual Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to chart out the next steps in the legislative push, Politico reported.

There are indications that Senator Lisa Murkwoski could support the legislation, even if she has yet to publicly say she would, but others — such as Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — have voiced reservations about religious liberty. Those concerns have led lawmakers who are working on the bill to prepare an amendment to the legislation.

“We are listening carefully to the concerns that have been raised by some of our colleagues,” Collins said. “And we’re looking at an amendment that would strengthen the language in the bill to make crystal clear that it does not in any way infringe upon religious liberty. And it also would correct a drafting error.”

There was recent speculation that lawmakers were contemplating whether to include the marriage legislation in a forthcoming government spending bill. Democratic senators, however, want to avoid combining the bills — perhaps in an effort to avoid overshadowing the marriage bill.

“We would prefer to do it as a separate bill,” Schumer said. “We hope there are 10 Republicans to help us with that.”

The fight for marriage equality once involved incremental gains in individual states, but the movement abruptly shifted in June of 2015 when the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage rights nationwide. Concerns over the stability of that ruling, though, surfaced after the Supreme Court shifted to the right during the Trump era, prompting states such as New Jersey to pass laws codifying marriage rights.

Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have been vocal in their disdain for the outcome of the Obergefell case, and Thomas’ concurring opinion in the abortion rights case made it clear he seeks to revisit Obergefell v. Hodges; Lawrence v. Texas, which nixed sodomy bans nationwide; and Griswold v. Connecticut, which affirmed contraception rights.