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Marriage Equality Bill Could Pass Senate Despite Some GOP Opposition

Texas Senator John Cornyn and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
Sens. John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham / Shutterstock

Republican senators mostly balked at the House-passed bill that would codify marriage equality into federal law, but a narrow path to overcome a filibuster seems to exist.

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There is still hope that Democrats can convince ten Republican senators to join them in codifying marriage equality, even though two Republicans once considered amenable to voting for it have come out against it.

Four Republicans have so far said they will support the measure: sponsors Susan Collins of Maine and Ohio's Rob Portman; Sen. Thom Tillis from North Carolina, who said he's a probable vote; and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Johnson said in a statement Thursday, "Even though I feel the Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary, should it come before the Senate, I see no reason to oppose it," according to CNN.

In addition, Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she generally supports the measure but is reviewing the proposed bill. "I have long made known public my support for marriage equality," she said, the Hill reports.

Despite polls showing the majority of Republicans support same-sex marriage and the measure passing with 47 Republican votes in the House, Senate Republicans are mostly keeping their distance from the Respect for Marriage Act.

Eight to 10 Republicans are also possible yes votes, according to the Hill.

The two GOP senators who were once seen as possible supporters of the legislation, Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, announced Wednesday they would not support it.

Graham said he'd defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. "I'm going to support the Defense of Marriage Act," he said.

Graham's remarks on marriage sparked concern among many, according to The Advocate's sibling publication Out.

During his tenure in Congress, Graham has long been one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ members and has refuted rumors of being gay.

Washington insiders and LGBTQ+ fans of politics use the nickname "Lady G" for Graham. So when gay adult film star Sean Harding accused Graham of being known as "Lady G" among male sex workers in 2020, the name trended on Twitter.

Cornyn, on his part, said the bill wasn't anything but a stunt by Democrats to shift concerns over inflation, the outlet reports. "This is a contrived controversy in pursuit of a political narrative that somehow that decision by the Supreme Court is in jeopardy. I don't believe it is, and this is an effort to try to stoke the fires of political activists and scare them with a narrative that I think is a false narrative," Cornyn said.

He added that Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling upholds the 14th Amendment's protection of same-sex marriages, which he said probably wouldn't change.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who has sided with Democrats in the past, agrees with Cornyn's position.

"We all know what the law is. I haven't given consideration to that legislation, in part because the law isn't changing and there's no indication that it will," he said, according to Insider. "And clearly, the legislation from the House is unnecessary, given the fact that the law is the same, and we'll take a look at it as it comes our way."

As of a few weeks ago, Roe v. Wade was also the law of the land. In arguing for the legislation, Democrats raise the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned Americans' right to abortion access. According to Thomas, the court should review its rulings protecting marriage equality and contraception.

Senate Republican Conference members and voters across the country changing their opinions on marriage equality, the Hill reports Portman, whose son is gay, saying.

"You look at the shifting sentiment about this issue throughout the country. I think this is an issue that many Americans regardless of political affiliation feel has been resolved," he said.

"My own personal views on this haven't changed from several years ago when I said people ought to have the opportunity to marry who they want," Portman said. "I think its time has come."

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).