Yet another “uphill battle” reaches the Senate, this time over what should be an uncontroversial bill seeking to codify same-sex marriage rights.


A man holds a U.S. and a rainbow flag outside the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, after the court legalized gay marriage nationwide. The Respect for Marriage Act would codify the ruling at a time when settled law is vulnerable. Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press, File

In a somewhat surprising show of bipartisan support, the House earlier this week voted 267 to 157 in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, with 47 Republican lawmakers (one-fifth) in favor. 

Now for the real hurdle.

At the time of writing, just four Senate Republicans (Sen. Susan Collins, a bill cosponsor, among them) said they would, or would likely, support the bill. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, included in that count, said she needed to look at the bill – a compact bill, by any standard – more closely. The support of 10 Republican senators will be required to get it over the line.

Last month’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has strengthened the impetus to legislate on social and cultural matters and left many elected representatives feeling unsettled by the vulnerability of what jurists and others often refer to as “settled law.” The Respect for Marriage Act would codify the court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which requires states to license marriages between same-sex couples and recognize all marriages lawfully performed out of state. It would also codify the right to interracial marriage granted in the 1967 decision Loving v. Virginia.

According to national polling by Gallup, an increasing majority of Americans support same-sex marriage: 71 percent, in May of this year, versus 50 percent a decade prior. Approval of interracial marriage, at 94 percent, is also at a record high.


Against that backdrop, the offhand dismissal of the bill by Republican senators looks even more out of touch.

Many assumed the whataboutism that their contemporary Joe Manchin has been relying on in recent days. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, calling it a “pure messaging bill,” gestured, as Manchin has, to the specter of inflation (which, as competing issues go, is at least fresh and demonstrable), the catch-all of “crime” (less so) and finally, most sweepingly, to “the border.”

Not every Republican has been so paralyzed by this potpourri of competing priorities. Addressing his constituents, and anybody who follows him on Twitter, U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan posted a video of himself strolling through a D.C. park after the House vote Tuesday.

“I voted for this thing tonight,” Meijer told his front-facing camera, a copy of the bill rustling in his hand. What he said next was refreshing in its honesty and its simplicity. 

“I kind of expected this to be filled with poison pills. The bill’s only 3½ pages long and it’s pretty straightforward. It says with regards to a marriage between two individuals, regardless of sex, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of race, regardless of national origin, if it is legally performed in one state it has to be recognized, for the purposes of state-based actions, such as taxation, in another state. That’s it,” Meijer said with a shrug.

No compulsion, he added, no threats to religious freedom. That’s it. His Senate counterparts should set aside their reservations and embrace the same conclusion.

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