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  5. The House will vote on legislation protecting marriage equality after Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should 'reconsider' gay marriage decision

The House will vote on legislation protecting marriage equality after Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should 'reconsider' gay marriage decision

Kayla Gallagher   

The House will vote on legislation protecting marriage equality after Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should 'reconsider' gay marriage decision
  • The overturning of Roe v. Wade put other SCOTUS decisions at risk, including same-sex marriage.
  • Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said the Court should now "reconsider" gay marriage.

In overturning Roe v. Wade last month, the Supreme Court raised questions about whether or not other landmark privacy cases are also at risk of reversal. One case Americans are concerned about is the Court's landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which federally legalized same-sex marriage.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health that the high court should "reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell," also naming the decisions establishing the right to contraception and invalidating anti-sodomy laws.

A group of largely Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation in both the House and Senate on Monday called the "Respect of Marriage Act," which would codify Obergefell into law, protecting same-sex and interracial marriage. This comes shortly after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protect abortion access after the constitutional right was stripped and given back to the states to regulate access.

"As this Court may take aim at other fundamental rights, we cannot sit idly by as the hard-earned gains of the Equality movement are systematically eroded," Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York said in a statement released by the committee. "If Justice Thomas's concurrence teaches anything it's that we cannot let your guard down or the rights and freedoms that we have come to cherish will vanish into a cloud of radical ideology and dubious legal reasoning."

The Respect of Marriage Act would also repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act," which prevented same-sex married couples from receiving marital benefits in states that did not recognize same-sex marriages and was ruled unconstitutional in the Obergefell decision. The act would also ensure that all marriages would be considered "valid" if the state the couple was married in recognizes it as so, as well as prohibit "any person acting under color of state law from denying full faith and credit to an out of state marriage based on the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage."

Thomas was not alone in challenging some major SCOTUS decisions protecting privacy rights. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said in July that Obergefell was an "overreaching" decision.

"I think that decision was clearly wrong when it was decided," Cruz said in an interview with conservative commentator Liz Williams.

Like abortion, same-sex marriage has long been a deeply partisan issue. But public opinion shifted dramatically on the issue in the years leading up to Supreme Court's decision and in the years since. Last year, a Gallup poll found for the first time that a majority of Republicans support same-sex marriage, while 70% of Americans overall support it.

Many Democrats have sounded the alarm about the implications of overturning Roe for the Court's other previous decisions protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.

"As Chairman of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, I want the LGBTQ+ community to know that this caucus is fighting for them and their right to live freely," Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat of Rhode Island, said in the committee's statement. "This legislation will protect their marriages and ensure they continue to be recognized, even if a future Supreme Court overturns landmark marriage equality decisions. I am proud of this bill, and I urge Congress to promptly pass this legislation."

When asked about the bill in a White House press briefing Monday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration applauds the congressional effort.

"This President has supported marriage equality for some time," Jean-Pierre said. "This is something that he believes in and this is something that he will continue to fight for."

The House is scheduled to vote on the Respect of Marriage Act on Tuesday and is expected to pass it. But it's unclear if there are enough supportive Senate Republicans to pass the bill through the upper chamber with the 60 votes needed to avoid the filibuster.


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