WASHINGTON — The House plans to vote this week to codify same-sex marriage and legal contraception across the country, fearing the Supreme Court could revoke those rights after it overturned the constitutional right to abortion last month.
The Democratic-controlled chamber will vote on Tuesday on the Respect for Marriage Act, which the office of majority leader Steny Hoyer says would provide legal protections for same-sex marriages across the country. The House is about to vote later this week on the Right to Contraception Act, a bill that would protect access to contraception.
Democratic leaders said they plan to vote on those bills after Judge Clarence Thomas, who wrote separately in the ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, said the new conservative Supreme Court should follow its abortion ruling by Obergefell v. Hodges. and Griswold v. Connecticut, which banned states from banning same-sex marriage and birth control, respectively.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats in a letter Monday that the House will pass “this week” bills to enshrine those rights to “protect freedom in our nation as extremist judges and lawmakers pursue more of our basic rights.”
The two measures are expected to pass the House with Democratic backing — and possibly some Republicans. It’s unclear if they can pass the Senate, which is split 50-50 between the two parties and where the bills need at least 10 GOP votes to defeat a filibuster. sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a co-sponsor of the Marriage Equality Act but is the only Republican senator to advocate for the bill to date.
sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, meanwhile, said Saturday that the 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country was “clearly wrong” and an example of the judges being “overreaching.”
“Obergefell, like Roe v. Wade, ignored two centuries of our nation’s history,” he said on “Verdict with Ted Cruz,” his podcast. “Marriage has always been an issue left to the states.”
Cruz said on Monday that states should not ban other categories of marriage. Asked by NBC News whether he believes the Supreme Court should quash Loving v. Virginia, which found a right to interracial marriage, Cruz said, “Of course not.”
“Because Loving was clearly right,” he said, arguing that that decision was based on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which he said “was adopted to eliminate government racial discrimination.”
Democrats are using gay marriage and birth control threats to boost voters in the 2022 midterm elections.
“People should be concerned based on how the Supreme Court ruled in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This is clearly an activist court,” Senator Gary Peters, D-Mich., the chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign arm, said in an interview.
Can birth control and same-sex marriage protection get through the Senate?
While the Senate has not scheduled a vote on either bill, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday that the chamber should vote on capturing those two rights.
“I’m really sorry to say that, but Clarence Thomas was very clear in his position here. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but I think it is,” Durbin said in response to a question from NBC News. “I remember states regulating birth control — you went to a gas station, to the men’s room, and there was a condom machine. And there was a label on it, ‘For disease prevention only.’ Because the states had said that’s the only reason you can legally buy a condom in America.”
Durbin said he believes the two proposals could get 60 Senate votes.
“Did you notice how quiet Republicans were when the issue of same-sex marriage finally surfaced during the Obama administration?” he said. “They get it. They’re on the wrong side of history.”
In 2015, the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationally prompted a tactical withdrawal from Republicans as public opinion quickly moved to back the right. But the court’s newly formed 6-to-3 majority — seen as the most conservative in nearly a century — offers gay marriage opponents the tantalizing possibility that the ruling could also be reversed.
The votes could put Republican senators in a difficult position, with Senate leader Mitch McConnell trying to downplay cultural hot-button issues where his party is at odds with public opinion to protect GOP candidates in the fall midterm elections.
But many Republican senators are wary of alienating their culturally conservative base, which is disillusioned with the pace of social change in the United States and has little interest in their elected representatives codifying those rights. Last week, Republicans blocked a bill to protect interstate travel to legally get an abortion.
And on Monday, Senate Republicans seemed at odds with whether same-sex marriage and birth control rights should be.
sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., called those proposals “hypothetical” and added that he “will see what happens” when they come.
sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a member of the GOP leadership, said she should “look at every text” about codifying legal contraception.
“I don’t know if we should codify things like that. Shouldn’t that be states and local jurisdictions, maybe?’ she said. “I should just see how it’s worded. But no, I think women should have access to contraception. But it depends on the definition of contraception.”
sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., accused Democrats of trying “to get everyone up in the run-up to the election to say, ‘Oh, my god, the Republicans are coming after you,'” a sort of theme they seem to be getting right now. to use .”
When asked whether Congress should establish a right to contraception, he said a right already exists under Supreme Court precedent.
Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., who is fighting to keep her seat this fall, said her voters are “outraged” by the court’s withdrawal of their rights and that she strongly supports both bills. As for birth control, she said, “I can’t even believe I have to talk about this issue, honestly.”