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Lacking 10 GOP Votes, Senate Negotiators Delay Marriage Equality Vote

“I’m still very confident that the bill will pass,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) speaks during a news conference after a policy luncheon with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol Building on September 7, 2022.

Senators are delaying a vote on a bill codifying the right to marry for same-sex couples until after the 2022 midterm elections, citing their inability to garner support from just 10 Republicans needed to defeat an expected filibuster.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), the lead sponsor of the legislation, said she still believes the bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, could pass in the chamber.

“I’m still very confident that the bill will pass, but we will be taking the bill up later, after the election,” Baldwin said, according to Politico.

The move surprised many lawmakers who were expecting a vote as soon as next week. But Baldwin, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and other lawmakers on the Senate negotiation team said they didn’t want to put the bill up for a vote before they knew for sure they could get the 10 GOP votes needed for it to pass.

In order to persuade undecided Republicans, the legislation will likely include “common-sense language that respects religious liberty and Americans’ diverse beliefs” while passing marriage equality protections into law, the group of Senate negotiators said in a statement. They added:

We’ve asked Leader Schumer for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed. We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.

The change in tone from the bipartisan team of Senate negotiators is noticeable, as they had previously expressed confidence that the bill would be up for a vote sometime this month, or even as early as next week.

Democrats and LGBTQ advocates have deemed the bill necessary in wake of the Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer that undid the abortion protections established in Roe v. Wade. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Court should reexamine every Supreme Court ruling that was based on privacy rights protections — including Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 ruling from the Court that recognized marriage equality throughout the U.S.

Thomas “opened the door for the Supreme Court” to undo these protections, Schumer said in a statement last week.

Although the bill still doesn’t have the support of the 10 GOP senators needed to pass, it does have the support of American voters overall, with nearly 6 in 10 saying they want it to become law, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll published this week. Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans say they don’t want the bill to pass.

Some social media users expressed doubt that waiting until after the midterms was the right call.

“I think it’s a mistake to wait until after the midterms to vote on marriage equality,” said political writer and activist Charlotte Clymer on Twitter. “I don’t trust Senate Republicans to do the right thing in either victory or defeat. I hope I’m wrong.”

Others noted that the stakes in this year’s midterm races are now higher.

“Let’s make no mistake — if we lose control of the Senate, gay marriage protection is DOA!” tweeted author Amy Siskind. “We must mobilize the vote: the Supreme Court has all but said overturning Obergefell is next!”