With the looming threat of an ultra-conservative Supreme Court, many in the United States are eager to pass a new law that will codify same-sex marriage as a federal right.
On Thursday, the US Senate declined to vote on The Respect for Marriage Act before the November congressional elections. Senators who back the legislation say they need more time to negotiate with Republicans to secure 10 more votes in support of the law.
The move was a disappointment for LGBTQ groups and activists who are calling for same-sex marriage to urgently be made federal law to better secure this right in the US.
“The Republicans need to stand up and explain why they don’t want to vote for equality among all human beings and the right to marry the person you love,” said Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren after hearing about the delay, reports Reuters.
In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign’s Interim President, Joni Madison, said that “The Respect for Marriage Act is an incredibly necessary, popular and bipartisan bill – and the lack of 10 Republican yes votes right now is extremely disappointing.
“Marriage equality – for both LGBTQ+ and interracial couples – is not and should not be a partisan issue, and to treat it as such is an insult to the millions of families who are impacted,” added Madison.
Same-sex marriage was legalised across the country by the Supreme Court in 2015 when it ruled that blocking same-sex couples from getting married is unconstitutional.
But in the wake of the now more conservative court’s June decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case – which reversed the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion a constitutional right – there is justifiable concern that same-sex marriage may be next in the court’s sights.
In his concurring opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson abortion case, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court’s 2015 same-sex marriage decision was “demonstrably erroneous” and that the court has “a duty to ‘correct the error’”.
It is therefore not inconceivable that should the matter be put to the court, it could now rule that same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right, allowing individual states to choose whether to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Supporters of The Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate say they are still committed to holding a vote before the end of the year but only after the elections.
“The Respect for Marriage Act must be brought to a vote at the earliest possible moment – in the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson, it is clear there’s a timely, urgent need to declare that the days of debate around marriage equality are over,” said Madison.
According to Gallup, 71% of Americans support marriage for same-sex couples, including 55% of Republicans. The last US Census found that about 58% of couples in the nation’s 980,000 same-sex households were married.