Republican lawmakers preparing themselves for a likely vote on a marriage equality bill in the Senate are expressing their reluctance, with some even disparaging the measure as unnecessary and a “stupid waste of time” — and doing so in front of their LGBTQ colleagues.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), who is up for reelection this year and is the subject of a myriad controversies, suggested he will likely vote in favor of the bill when it comes up for a vote, but made no bones about his reluctance to do so.
The Respect for Marriage Act was crafted after conservative justices on the Supreme Court ended abortion rights last month that had been recognized since the 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade. They did so by arguing that the precedent discussed in the case — a penumbric constitutional right to privacy — was not explicitly written into the Constitution.
That notion could upend any number of other Supreme Court rulings of the past 60 years — including the right to contraception and birth control, the right to have consensual adult relationships without state interference, and indeed, the right of same-sex couples to marry, which was recognized in the 2015 decision on Obergefell v. Hodges.
Johnson dismissed such concerns when commenting on the Respect for Marriage Act this week.
“Unlike Roe v. Wade, I do not see any scenario in which the Supreme Court would overturn Obergefell,” he claimed. “The Respect for Marriage Act is another example of Democrats creating a state of fear over an issue in order to further divide Americans for their political benefit.”
However, in his concurring opinion, the far right Justice Clarence Thomas stated that cases like Obergefell should be reexamined, countering Johnson’s claims that the issue of same-sex marriage is settled.
Johnson wasn’t the only Republican lawmaker grumbling about the bill, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) was also caught mocking the idea of a vote to codify marriage equality. While entering an elevator on Wednesday, Rubio whined that, to him, the bill was a “stupid waste of time.”
Rubio’s comments were heard by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), who is not only the lead sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, but also the first open LGBTQ individual to be elected to the Senate. On Thursday, Baldwin recounted on CNN how she confronted Rubio while on the elevator with him.
“You probably would have loved to be on the elevator to see the exchange after,” she said.
Baldwin also tried to explain to her Republican colleague why the bill wasn’t a “waste of time.”
“I said that, ‘The recent Supreme Court decision eroded a constitutional right to privacy. There’s a whole bunch of cases that have been decided based on a constitutional right to privacy that are in jeopardy,’ which he disagrees with,” Baldwin said, adding that she told him “we’ll be talking some more.”
Baldwin did not elaborate on what Rubio said to her in response.
Like Johnson, Rubio is also up for reelection in this year’s midterm elections.
The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a homophobic law passed in the mid-1990s that stated the federal government would not recognize state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. It also allows states that define marriage as strictly between one man and one woman to not recognize same-sex marriages legalized in other states. In addition to repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would also require states with bigoted laws on marriage to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.