Are gay marriage and interracial marriage really issues in 2022? Probably not, but the House did nonetheless just vote on a bill to enshrine legal recognition of both into federal law — with interesting results.
Democrats brought forth the “Respect for Marriage Act” in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. It would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a voided but still-on-the-books federal law that defines marriage as between only a man and a woman. The legislation would also require states to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.
Here’s the context.
Citing Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in the case overturning Roe, many on the Left fear that the rights to gay marriage and interracial marriage could be overturned next. For a number of reasons I explained here, including the other justices specifically saying they’re not going to go there, I don’t think these fears are well-founded. But they are nonetheless widespread.
Passing legislation would take these fears off the table and undercut the Democrats’ ability to use fearmongering about gay marriage as a political tactic heading into the 2022 midterm elections. It’s also the right thing to do as a matter of limited government and individual liberty.
That’s why the Respect for Marriage Act passed the House with 47 Republican votes, including “yay” votes from notable liberty lawmakers such as Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL), and Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI).
So here’s the full list of 47 House Republicans who voted for legislation to codify federal recognition of same-sex marriage: pic.twitter.com/RwOjf1trkz
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) July 19, 2022
“I’m a big fan of marriage, having done it a few times,” Mace joked. “And if gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them. Trust me on this.”
Meijer, for his part, explained in a video that while he doesn’t actually believe either gay marriage or interracial marriage are in jeopardy, he still thought the Respect for Marriage Act made sense and deserved his support.
Thank you so much for taking this stand. You're absolutely right and, angry Twitter randos aside, the vast majority of Americans and even a slim majority of Republicans agree with you. https://t.co/myY1mVOOH4
— Brad Polumbo 🇺🇸⚽️🏳️🌈 (@brad_polumbo) July 20, 2022
“I kind of expected [this bill] to be filled with poison pills,” Meijer said. “[Yet] it’s only about 3.5 pages long, and it’s pretty straightforward. It says that with regards to a marriage between two individuals regardless of sex, ethnicity, race, or national origin, if it is legally performed in one state it has to be recognized for the purposes of state-based actions, such as taxation, in another state. That’s it.”
“There’s no compulsion,” the Michigan Republican continued. “There’s no threats to religious freedom. There is just the simple of question of, in the unlikely event that [Supreme Court decisions establishing the right to gay and interracial marriage] go away, making sure that there isn’t absolute chaos.”
“I think it was the right choice from a limited government standpoint, from a liberty standpoint, and frankly from avoiding any circumstance where chaos could come down the line,” Meijer concluded.
This is absolutely spot on.
Now, to be clear, the 157 Republicans who voted against the Respect for Marriage Act had a variety of reasons for doing so. Not all of them actually oppose gay marriage — and they certainly don’t oppose interracial marriage.
Many argued that it was a political stunt by Democrats not worth taking seriously.
Jim Jordan dismisses the marriage equality bill as "simply the latest installment of the Democrats' campaign to delegitimize and attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court." pic.twitter.com/RGpyJM1EQR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 19, 2022
Chip Roy says Democrats are using marriage equality to distract from inflation pic.twitter.com/czI4GWPDCG
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 19, 2022
They’re right that this is certainly a partisan tactic from Democratic leadership with the election on their mind. But that’s not a good reason to vote against an otherwise commonsense bill — and why play into their hands?
Democrats brought this bill for a vote precisely so they could accuse Republicans of being anti-gay marriage and anti-interracial marriage and fearmonger about those rights being in jeopardy. If Republicans just vote for it, these attacks lose all credibility! Instead, dissidents decided to play right into the Democrats’ hands.
Other GOP opponents argued that marriage is a state’s rights issue or that the government ought not to be involved in marriage at all. This is a legitimate perspective, but again, it does not justify voting against the Respect for Marriage Act.
For one thing, if you truly believe gay marriage is a state’s rights issue, then you ought to support getting rid of DOMA because it imposed a traditionalist definition of marriage on to the entire country via federal law.
And yes, federalism — leaving most things up to states — is generally a good principle. But it’s not really workable as a practical matter for citizens’ marriages to be recognized in one state but then, if they move, suddenly, they are no longer married. Imagine the havoc that would wreak on tax issues, property issues, medical/emergency contact powers, and even the legal parental status of adopted parents.
As far as not having the government involved in marriage at all, that’s certainly a defensible position in the abstract. But it’s not where we are in reality, and there’s no realistic chance of getting there any time soon.
As long as the government is involved in legally recognizing marriages for both financial and legal purposes, it should do so equally for both traditional and same-sex marriages. Anything less is downright discriminatory — and inconsistent with principles of individual liberty.
While legal recognition of gay marriage is wildly popular among the public and even a slim majority of Republican voters, the 47 Republicans who bucked the rest of their party and voted to protect gay marriage are certainly going to come under some withering criticism. But they can take solace in the fact that their vote will age well.