Alaska’s two U.S. senators voted in lockstep with Democrats to advance House Resolution 8404, which will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and replace it with the Respect for Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act would make marriage protections for gays and lesbians a federal issue, superseding state laws. Opponents say it does not protect constitutionally granted religious liberties for those who don’t wish to take part in same-sex wedding ceremonies or the events celebrating them, and the law may be used to punish Christians.
Twelve Republican senators voted to invoke cloture, which means to advance the legislation for a vote on Tuesday. The Republicans were Roy Blunt, Missouri; Richard Burr, North Carolina; Shelley Capito, West Virginia; Susan Collins, Maine; Joni Ernst, Iowa; Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Rob Portman, Ohio; Mitt Romney, Utah; Dan Sullivan, Alaska; Thom Tillis, North Carolina; and Todd Young, Indiana.
All Democrats voted yes and the measure received one vote more than the 60 it needed — Sen. Dan Sullivan’s vote — to move ahead in the legislative process tomorrow.
The Senate vote was held open for nearly 2-1/2 hours to reach the 60 vote threshold needed to advance it. Sen. Todd Young voted yes and was the 60th vote. The clock kept ticking.
Several minutes later, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan arrived on the floor of the Senate and gave a thumbs up. That was the end of the voting on Tuesday. The matter comes up again for a vote on Wednesday.
Sullivan’s office said he arrived last because he was working to get Sens. Young and Lummis to hold out so that a vote would happen on Lee’s amendment. That was what the thumbs up referred to — Sullivan getting the OK from Sen. Chuck Schumer that they would allow the vote; it was previously dead.
The Alliance Defending Freedom and other conservative groups are highly critical of the bill and say it is unconstitutional.
Franklin Graham, who is an evangelical religious leader, called the bill “deceptively named.” He wrote, “It is very disappointing that 12 Republican senators sided with ultra-liberal @SenSchumer and voted for the Respect for Marriage Act which strikes a blow against millions of Americans who believe in and support traditional marriage.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said “the RFMA’s current language would strip the tax-exempt status from many religious schools, faith-based organizations, and other non-profit entities that hold traditional views of marriage. The Senate must pass the Lee Amendment.”
Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said, “All Americans should be honored and no one should be discriminated against—no one. The Respect for Marriage Act isn’t about equality or maintaining the status quo. It is about silencing and disadvantaging people that disagree.”
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said, “What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs & moral convictions.”
“As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, activists went to work mischaracterizing the ruling,” wrote Greg Baylor for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Many used the decision—and particularly Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence—to stoke fears that the Court might overturn other precedents, including Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court invented a constitutional ‘right’ to same-sex marriage.
“Using this feigned outrage as a cover, these activists pushed for a federal law called the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill is unnecessary and could have a disastrous effect on religious freedom.“
The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in July immediately after the high court returned abortion laws to the states, and it is fast-tracked to be passed by the Senate and the House before the House returns to Republican control in January. It had no public hearings or committee hearings in the House, which led to proponents mischaracterizing the bill as a mere codifying of Obergefell v. Hodges.
“After outcry from thousands of religious Americans, faith-based organizations, and churches, a small group of senators offered a substitute version that they claim fixes the bill’s religious liberty problems,” Baylor writes. He says that the fixes do not protect Americans who hold different beliefs.
NPR reports that 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage and that the matter is no longer controversial.
“Same-sex marriage used to be a deeply divisive issue. Now, with polls showing over 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage, Congress is set to move forward with The Respect for Marriage Act,” NPR reported.
The bill is a reaction to the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade.
“I first filed the Respect for Marriage Act over a decade ago. Since then, the fight for marriage equality has seen many highs and lows, but perhaps none more frightening than the current threat posed by Clarence Thomas and this conservative Supreme Court,” said Rep. Nadler. “I, along with my Democratic colleagues, will not be idle bystanders while the constitutional rights and freedoms that underpin our democracy are shredded. Today’s vote was about protecting the children and loving families whose whole lives rely on the constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will take up this bipartisan bill without delay and provide much needed stability and certainty for the families that have been shaken to their core by Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs v Jackson.”