Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., joined 11 of her GOP peers last week to push the Respect for Marriage bill, which was stalled by a filibuster that required 60 votes to get it put to the vote .
The bill would codify same-sex marriages and prohibit a state from recognizing a same-sex marriage contracted in another state.
One of the purposes of the Respect for Marriage Act is to be prepared should the US Supreme Court rule in Obergefell v. Hodges’ 2015 ruling in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a fundamental right protected by both the due process clause and the equal protection clause. The judgment obliges all states to perform and recognize marriages of same-sex couples.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the court “should reconsider” rights like birth control and same-sex marriage in future decisions after the Roe v. Wade lifted in June.
The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) officially repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and requires the federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages in the United States. The draft law aims to codify this protection.
Capito voted to move the law forward, but clarified that the bill “ensures all freedom of religion and protections of conscience afforded to religious organizations under the Constitution and existing federal statutes such as the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act.” Nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to support same-sex marriage or to alter its benefits, rights, or status if those rights do not arise from the specific issue of marriage.”
“In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court clearly stated that the federal judiciary should not be the policy making authority,” she said. “I firmly endorsed this decision and continue to believe that important policy decisions should be made in Congress and the state legislatures. I appreciate my fellow West Virginians who have turned to me about the sanctity of marriage and who have sincere beliefs based on strong traditional and religious values. These beliefs must be respected and no religious entity should be persecuted by individuals, organizations or governmental institutions because of their beliefs.”
Capito said the legislation will benefit “those who have been affected since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges of 2015 into a civil partnership allow their partnerships to continue to be respected for federal purposes”.
“This does not diminish the traditional sanctity of marriage or endanger the freedom of religious institutions,” she said. “The legislation passed by the House of Representatives has raised concerns among many about the protection of religious liberties, so my colleagues and I have worked to strengthen those protections in the replacement amendment. I will support the replacement motion because it will ensure that our religious freedoms are respected and protected, one of the foundations of our democracy.”
In July, the House of Representatives passed the RMA by a vote of 267 to 157, with 47 Republicans siding with the Democrats. West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney voted against. Representatives David McKinley and Carol Miller did not vote. Morgan Griffith, Republican representative for Virginia’s 9th District, voted against.
Following last week’s Senate vote to move forward, Sen. Diane Feinstein (R-Calif.), who is drafting the Senate bill along with Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Robert Portman (R-Ohio ), released a statement.
“With the fall of Roe v. Wade has shown the conservative majority of the Supreme Court that they are willing to attack other constitutional rights, including same-sex and interracial marriage,” she said. “Indeed, one judge specifically indicated that the court’s Obergefell decision confirming same-sex marriage should be reviewed. Our bill would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and ensure marriage equality remains the law of the country.”
Collins also released a statement saying Maine voters legalized same-sex marriage in the state nearly a decade ago, “and since Obergefell, all Americans have had the right to marry the person they love.”
“During my time in the Senate, I’ve been proud to support legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, from strengthening hate crime prevention laws to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to toward ensuring equality in the workplace,” she said. “This law is another step toward promoting equality, preventing discrimination, and protecting the rights of all Americans.”
Capito’s leadership role in the Senate was also expanded last week when she was elected vice chair of the Republican Senate Conference by her Republican Senate peers.
“Having served several years as a member of the broader Republican Senate leadership team, I look forward to expanding my role and officially assuming responsibility as Vice Chair of the Republican Senate Conference,” she said. “It’s so important that we listen more to the men and women of our country who are starting families and working hard to strengthen America, especially as we strive together to address the challenges we face. I am committed to that and look forward to working with my colleagues to communicate our optimistic vision for the future.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]