Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters today that he has no plans to weigh in on the bill to codify same-sex marriage into federal law until the measure is brought to the Senate floor.
“I’m not going to make an observation about that until the issue is actually brought up in the Senate,” he said.
It’s a standard delay tactic that other Republicans have used in recent days as Democrats push to pass crucial privacy-related protections into law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe — and to get their Republican colleagues on the record about their stances on important and long-established American rights, like same-sex marriage and access to contraceptive care.
McConnell — who is not often loathe to publicly discuss where he stands on policy issues ahead of votes — appears to be avoiding the latter at the moment, much like many of his Republican colleagues.
The House passed a bill to codify federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage into law last week. The bill specifically requires that states must recognize same-sex marriages, even if they occurred in other states. It’s a clear response to a few things for Democrats.
First, in his concurring opinion overturning Roe, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in broad daylight that the high court should consider taking another look at other landmark privacy-rights cases such as protections for same-sex marriage and contraception access. Second, for Democrats, it’s appears to be a preemptive effort to curb how red states might respond to a potential future SCOTUS attack on same-sex marriage. And it seems to have been crafted based on what we’re seeing post-Roe: abortion access remains protected in blue state as red states pass bans and restrictions to outlaw the procedure and as some red states even attempt to police abortion care across state lines.
The House passed the bill last week, with 47 Republicans voting with Democrats in support of the measure. While 157 House Republicans still voted against the bill, support from nearly 50 House GOPers was not expected. That’s served as a signal in some circles that there might be support for the effort in the Senate. But it’ll require 10 Republicans to get on board for Democrats to overcome the filibuster. Whether Democrats and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who has been vocal about her support for the bill, are able to get to 10 is still up in the air — primarily because many Republican senators, like McConnell, are either not engaging or hiding behind bad faith denials about the threat at hand.
“I don’t know why we’re doing that bill, there’s no threat to its status in America,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Punchbowl News when asked about the Respect for Marriage Act last week. “But I know plenty of gay people in Florida that are pissed off about gas prices.”
“I’m not voting for that bill, what do you mean I won’t say how I’ll vote?” he told Business Insider a few days later, calling it a “waste of our time on a non-issue.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) also recently shrugged off the issue, telling CNN that he respects the high court’s 2015 ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges and argued that threats to that decision are not “an issue right now that anybody’s talking about.”
Again, simply not true.
While Republicans senators like Collins and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) have been clear about their support for the measure, others are either waffling or keeping their mouths shut (except Ted Cruz). While a recent poll shows about 71 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage rights — including the majority of Republican voters — many GOP lawmakers haven’t been forced to go on the record about gay marriage in almost a decade at this point. It’s a matter of who’s willing to stick their neck out, and when.
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