Nervously watching the swing districts, Republicans are looking at their options as they prepare to vote on a bill that would codify the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage.
Democrats created the bill to “trap” Republicans into voting against gay marriage bills. Some Republicans are looking at the possibility of including a number of amendments to the bill, including exemptions for religious liberty and anti-polygamy riders, that could make it more appealing to enough Republicans to pass it.
Although it’s still far away, it shows how much Republicans have been scared by cultural issues such as abortion and gay marriage in recent weeks.
“We are paying attention to concerns raised by some of the colleagues,” Senator Susan Collins said to Politico this week. “We’re considering an amendment to strengthen the language of the bill so that it doesn’t infringe on religious liberty in any way. It would also correct a drafting mistake”.
Collins and Sen. Tammy Baldwin made similar points in a Washington Post joint op-ed this week. They wrote, “We recognize some might need more clarification on this point and that is why our Senate colleagues have worked together to create clarifying language to this legislation that makes it clear exactly what the Respect for Marriage Act will not do — it won’t take away or alter any religious freedom or conscience protections.”
Over 70% of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be protected as traditional marriage. However, it is important to clarify the situation so that no one is forced into participating in same-sex wedding ceremonies against their will.
Baldwin wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post
Religious liberty is an essential tenet of our republic. The Respect for Marriage Act recognizes this principle. Bipartisan legislation preserves religious liberty and federal protections for individuals and organizations. We understand that people might need more information on this topic. That is why we worked with our Senate colleagues in order to clarify the language of the legislation. The Respect for Marriage Act will not alter or remove any religious liberty protections or conscience protections.
Some Republicans argue that there is no serious effort to remove same-sex marriage protections and that the Respect for Marriage Act should be ignored. Others believe that the protections for religious liberty are too limited. Republicans correctly identified the Democrats’ election-year gambit to increase turnout with this bill, but they are concerned that voting against it might cost them their base.
The concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas in Dobbs is being used by Democrats. Thomas seemed to openly challenge Supreme Court decisions on contraception and gay marriage. Although no serious challenges have been filed to date, Democrats are raising the possibility of banning birth control in an attempt to scare women into voting.
It remains to be seen how successful that attack line might be.