Grassley, Ernst Noncommittal On Marriage Equality Vote

Since the overturn of Roe v Wade, Americans have spent the summer worried about other civil rights that could be reversed by the US Supreme Court.

House Democrats responded Monday with their Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify same-sex and interracial marriage by requiring the federal government to recognize those marriages. It also requires states to recognize out-of-state marriages regardless of  the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the married people.

The bill passed the House 267-157 with full Democratic support, and only 47 Republicans.

Now the bill moves on to the Senate, where Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have been unclear about where they stand.

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Grassley didn’t commit to supporting the bill. He said he would review the legislation but he didn’t think the right to marriage was being threatened.

When asked by reporters he said, “The right to gay marriage is not currently an issue, simply because one justice mentioned it very briefly in a previous decision in a concurrence that he wrote.”

In his concurring opinion to the Dobbs v Jackson abortion ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas floated the idea that Court decisions regarding same-sex marriage (2015), and contraception (1965) are on the same shaky ground as abortion rights. He did not mention interracial marriage (Loving v Virginia, 1967).

Grassley also told reporters, “It’s [same-sex marriage] the law of the land.” That phrase had been used to describe to Roe too, including by the justices who overturned it. Grassley didn’t respond when a reporter pointed that out.

Ernst’s response was less clear.

She told reporters she hasn’t seen the bill but was open-minded about it. When asked if she supports same-sex marriage, Ernst said, “I have a good number of very close friends that are same-sex married.”

Iowa Reps. Cindy Axne, Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks voted for the bill. Only Rep. Randy Feenstra voted against it.

The Respect for Marriage Act officially repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which only recognized marriage between a man and a woman. If this bill is passed and signed, DOMA will not go back into effect if the Supreme Court reverses their 2015 decision in Obergefell v Hodges.

While the bill requires the federal and state governments to recognize all legal marriages, including those that were legal when they were entered into, it does not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Thursday, House Democrats and eight Republicans voted to protect individuals’ rights to access and use contraceptives. The Right to Contraception Act also protects healthcare providers’ ability to provide contraceptives and information about contraception.

This means the right will not be impacted if the Supreme Court reverses the 1965 Griswold v Connecticut decision.


Nikoel Hytrek

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