Iowa’s senators were split as the US Senate voted 62-37 to advance a bill to uphold and protect Americans’ rights to marry.
The Respect for Marriage Act 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.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was recently re-elected, voted no on the bill’s advancement while Sen. Joni Ernst voted yes. Both are Republicans.
Ernst said in a statement: “After hearing directly from Iowans and closely reviewing the amended language, I believe this bill protects religious freedoms and will simply maintain the status quo in Iowa.”
Iowa legalized same-sex marriage via an Iowa Supreme Court decision in 2009.
Grassley opposed the bill, saying it would put people’s religious beliefs at risk—and claimed the right to marriage isn’t being threatened.
“My vote against this bill is not about opposing the recognition of same-sex or interracial marriages; it’s about defending the religious liberty enshrined in our founding documents,” he said. “This legislation is simply unnecessary.”
But Grassley’s objections don’t have much merit.
By voting to proceed, the senators also voted for an amendment to the bill which was crafted to appease Republicans and win the 60 votes needed to avoid the filibuster: It explicitly ensures nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage.
The vote means the bill will move to the Senate floor for debate. After that, it will be voted on again and, if passed, sent back to the House of Representatives for another vote. If it passes there, the bill will move to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
This summer, neither senator would commit to where they stood on the vote.
At the time, Ernst told reporters then that 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.”
Grassley described same-sex marriage as the law of the land and told reporters, “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 decision on Dobbs v Jackson, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should review its previous decisions on same sex marriage, birth control and sodomy laws. He did not mention interracial marriage.
The Dobbs decision overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, two decisions that protected the right to abortion. They were also considered settled law.
As a result, Congressional Democrats got to work crafting bills to protect those rights Americans are used to.
The Respect for Marriage Act first passed the House of Representatives in July on a 267-157 vote. Every Democrat supported the bill, including 47 Republicans. Those Republicans included Iowa Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
The FAMiLY Leader, a conservative organization that campaigns against same-sex marriage, and its president Bob Vander Plaats called on Grassley and Ernst to vote against the bill, calling it an attack on children and religious liberty.
The Respect for Marriage Act officially repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law which only recognized marriage between a man and a woman — meaning its passage would not allow the Supreme Court to reverse the 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.
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