As Congress returns to Washington, DC this week with a long to-do list of legislative items, including appropriations bills and the national defense bill, U.S. Senator Jack Reed says leaders should look for common ground and address bipartisan priorities, including protecting the right to marriage equality.
Same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015 in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinion which found that that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. But once current members of the Supreme Court suggested previous cases ensuring marriage equality and contraception should be reconsidered after the court overturned Roe v. Wade -- and Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly called for the Supreme Court to reconsider the Obergefell v. Hodges decision recognizing the Constitutional right to marriage equality -- Senator Reed says Congress must act swiftly and on a bipartisan basis to prevent an activist court from taking away people's Constitutional rights.
"This is about freedom, equality, and standing up to discrimination. Congress must work together to protect people's fundamental rights and ensure every marriage is treated equally under the law," said Reed. "The Respect for Marriage Act has strong bipartisan backing and passing it will enshrine marriage equality to ensure the law does not discriminate against same-sex and interracial couples."
The bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act (S. 4556) would codify the right to marriage equality for same-sex and interracial relationships. The bill also prohibits state officials from denying recognition of an out-of-state marriage on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.
This summer, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 267 to 157 -- including support from 47 Republicans -- to codify marriage equality by passing the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404). Rather than forcing a vote on the measure before the election, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to hold off on bringing the bill to the floor until after the election -- a move welcomed by the bill's bipartisan supporters -- to ensure the bill was considered on the merits and had the best chance of becoming law.
"When it comes to marriage equality, the American people have moved forward together, but there are some members of the Supreme Court who seem to disagree. Passing this bipartisan bill is necessary to reaffirm that equality is the law of the land and protect Americans' rights from ideological judicial overreach. It is written in a way that protects religious liberty and also makes clear that same-sex couples have the right to marry and have their marriages recognized and respected under the law," said Reed.
Ultimately, the legislation's passage depends on at least 10 Senate Republicans willing to join the entire Democratic majority in protecting marriage equality in order to reach 60 votes and prevent a filibuster.
"I applaud lawmakers from both parties who have worked so hard to advance this bill, including Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins, (R-ME), and others in the Senate. David Cicilline is a national champion on this issue. I hope the Senate will act this week to get the job done and ensure every family continues to receive equal protection under the law."