AnalysisLGBTQ Pride

Despite having majority, Senate Democrats postpone marriage equality bill vote until after midterms

The Democrats are continuing to play political games with Americans’ rights. Most recently Senate Democrats, rather than fight right now to pass a bill that would protect the right of same-gender couples to marry, have decided to postpone the vote until after midterm elections. Instead of fighting to protect this right, they are using the issue of same-gender marriage, supported by the majority in the United States, as a campaign and fundraising opportunity for their midterm candidates.

The Supreme Court’s horrendous Dobbs vs. Jackson decision eviscerated the national right to an abortion and signaled the court’s intent to do the same to other core democratic rights. Congressional Democrats rushed to protect some of those rights. Among their efforts was the Respect for Marriage Act defending same-gender marriage, which was reintroduced in July and passed the House with 47 Republicans voting for it with the Democratic majority.

However, the GOP’s threat of filibuster is blocking its passage in the Senate, just like much of the Democrats’ political agenda.

In the Senate, too, the bill has some Republican support with four moderate GOP senators backing it. The Democrats are unable to get a 60-vote supermajority to get around the filibuster, but there are other ways. The Democrats need only 51 votes to suspend the filibuster rule and call for a simple majority to pass this bill. Even better, the Democrats could fight to end the Senate filibuster rule, which is obstructionist in nature. But this would shake up the status quo, which the Senate Democrats are reluctant to do. Instead, on Sept. 22 they announced that they have decided to postpone the vote on FRMA until after the November midterm elections.

Same gender marriage legalized nationally in 2015

The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case that it was unconstitutional to deny same-gender couples the right to marry — a key right that the LGBTQ community fought for decades to achieve. FRMA would enshrine that ruling into U.S law, so the high court cannot overturn its previous decision and erase that victory, as it did in the Dobbs ruling in June, which overturned the Roe v. Wade decision from 1973, which had legalized abortion nationally. 

RFMA would also repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a reactionary 1996 law that defined marriage federally as between one man and one woman and gave state governments explicit sanction to ban same-gender marriages. Many Democrats championed DOMA at the time, including President Bill Clinton who signed it into law.

Marriage equity supported by majority of Democrats and Republians

If the Supreme Court were to overturn the Obergefell ruling, it would immediately reactivate bans on same-gender marriage in 31 U.S. states, some of which date back decades. This would fly in the face of public opinion, which has in recent years has shifted greatly since the DOMA of 1996, especially since 2015. A Gallup poll last year found that 70% of the U.S. population supports marriage equality, including 83% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans.

Thus, the Democrats once again are refusing to push forward an effort to protect widely popular rights from impending attack by reactionary forces. The Women’s Health Protection Act, the Equality Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and other very popular bills have all been held captive by the Republicans’ filibuster and the Democrats’ lack of political will to move or sidestep that racist, reactionary rule and pass these essential bills.

Instead of calling on working and oppressed people to demand passage of FRMA and other bills ahead of the elections when it would put the most pressure on lawmakers to follow their constituents’ demands or risk being voted out of office, the Democrats are sacrificing their political leverage in the hopes of winning over some more Republicans, or gambling that they will win more Senate seats in November. It is an attempt at bilking voters of their money by claiming that, like abortion or voting rights, if they don’t get even more campaign donations then they won’t be able to defend us.

To a ruling class party like the Democrats, it’s a political game; for working and oppressed people who fought for these endangered rights, it’s our right to equality, which is not negotiable. They have a majority now, they should vote now!

Photo: Celebratory demonstration outside the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, when same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. Credit:

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