The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to affirm the legality of same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court last month reversed its position on abortion rights, sparking concern that other major rulings might be revisited.
Forty-seven Republicans, including New York Reps. Elise Stefanik, Nicole Malliotakis, Andrew Garbarino and Lee Zeldin, joined all Democrats in the 267-157 vote.
It’s unclear, however, if the Democrat-controlled Senate will vote on the measure to make permanent the effect of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which allowed gay and lesbian couples to wed in all 50 states.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday that there may not be enough time to send the bill to President Biden’s desk this year — even if there’s enough Republican support to clear the 60-vote threshold required to proceed.
Durbin said, “We have more priorities than we have time,” Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post reported on Twitter.
The Supreme Court on June 24 voted in Dobbs v. Jackson to rescind federal abortion rights and return the issue to state governments, overturning the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade in a decision that attempted to tamp down fears that other rights would be next.
The five-justice majority opinion accused dissenting justices of attempting to “stoke unfounded fear that our decision will imperil” other rulings that legalized the use of contraceptives, sexual relations between people of the same sex and same-sex marriage.
The majority opinion said, “to ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”
However, one conservative justice voting in the majority, Clarence Thomas, submitted a concurring opinion that said “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
Same-sex marriage currently has overwhelming public support — with 71% of US adults favoring the practice being legal, according to a Gallup survey released in June. However, there are significant regional differences and support for the policy was considered politically toxic just a decade ago.
Biden voted in 1994 to ban federal recognition of same-sex marriage. But as vice president, Biden in 2012 abandoned his opposition to same-sex marriage in what was at the time seen as a possible gaffe that forced then-President Barack Obama to also drop his opposition to the reform.
The Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell ended a protracted struggle that included state and federal lawsuits, voter initiatives and state legislation. Massachusetts in 2004 became the first state to allow same-sex marriage.
Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, was “the first president to start as president approving of gay marriage,” his adviser Kellyanne Conway said in 2019. Trump appointed the first gay Cabinet-level official, acting intelligence director Ric Grenell, in 2020 after posing with a rainbow flag during the 2016 campaign.
Some Republicans who voted against the bill Tuesday said it wasn’t necessarily because they oppose same-sex marriage.
“In a fit of hysteria triggered by one sentence in a concurring opinion by Justice Thomas, Democrats have moved to introduce a bill codifying Obergefell v. Hodges,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). “This holding is not in jeopardy. Gay marriage doesn’t offend me nearly as much as offending federalism does through this legislation.”