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Fate of Gay Marriage bill up to U.S. Senate

valente gay marriage senate story
Posted at 7:00 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 19:13:41-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — U.S. Senators will soon decide whether to follow the House of Representatives lead and vote to codify same-sex marriage into federal law, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed the House Monday, with 47 Republicans aligning with House Democrats.

Congressman John Yarmuth (D) was the sole member of Kentucky's congressional delegation to vote for the measure. All five Kentucky Republicans in the House voted against it.

Rep. Andy Barr (R) told LEX 18 Wednesday he believed the bill was "gratuitous and politically motivated." Two other congressmen, Rep. Hal Rogers (R) and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R) struck a similar tone in their statements, reflecting Republicans' argument that the decision to hold a vote was a "political stunt."

"The Supreme Court's majority opinion for the Dobbs decision makes it very clear that Roe v. Wade being overturned does not threaten the precedent of same-sex marriage and should not be used to cast doubt on other already-protected rights," said Rep. Guthrie in a statement to LEX 18.

In his majority opinion for the Dobbs case, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said that the overturning of Roe only applied to abortion and no other right, but Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion alarmed advocates.

In his opinion, Thomas suggested the court might want to reconsider decisions protecting rights to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage.

"If [Kentucky Republicans] thought that marriage wasn't in jeopardy, why didn't they just go ahead and vote for the bill?" said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

Hartman said he believes overturning the right for same-sex couples to marry would be a "more difficult road to tread," but he is worried previously protected rights could be scaled back in the future.

"We took Roe v. Wade as settled law for 50 years," Hartman said. "And now the court has proven that nothing is sacred, that they could overturn anything at any moment that they want to."

If passed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal protections to same-sex couples when it was passed in 1996. That law was considered moot when the Obergefell decision was made in 2015 when the Supreme Court declared bans on gay marriage unconstitutional.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which was ultimately signed into law by President Bill Clinton. McConnell has not yet indicated how he will vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, telling journalists he will "delay announcing" until he sees what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to put on the floor of the Senate.

Senator Rand Paul (R) did not return LEX 18's request for comment.