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Congress moves to protect gay and interracial marriage post-Roe v. Wade decision

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion on contraception and gay marriage sent shockwaves through Congress.

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[Washington, D.C.] – MTN Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation that would codify both same-sex and interracial marriage in a surprising bipartisan effort. If passed in the Senate, the bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 Clinton-age law defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson and overturning Roe v Wade, critics have admonished the Biden Administration and the Democratic Party for their failure to codify Roe in the past 50 years. And many are wondering if the overturning of Roe will be the wake-up call the party needs.

How Did We Get Here?

After Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas released an independent concurring opinion where he suggested the court “reconsider” and “correct the errors” in Obergefell, Griswold, and Lawrence, House Democrats reintroduced the Respect for Marriage Act. Despite most viewing interracial and same-sex marriage as settled laws, some Republicans expressed an interest in not codifying the recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) went on the record to say that while he feels the bill is unnecessary, but “…should it come to the Senate, I see no reason to oppose it.” The Supreme Court’s majority draft opinion on Dobbs leaked shortly before it overturned Roe v. Wade. In that month’s time, many were expecting the Biden Administration to step in with a solution. The White House elected to take no action. President Biden issued an executive order for abortion access and expansion under the protection of the 1987 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) two weeks after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Vice President Kamala Harris’s comments after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade didn’t help the situation.

In a recent interview, Vice President Harris was asked if Democrats failed by not codifying Roe in the past 50 years.

“We should have rightly believed, but we certainly believed that certain issues are just settled,” she responded. While some legal issues are “settled,” as Ms. Harris puts it, strengthening those institutions by making them laws could have prevented the Supreme Court from even considering Roe v. Wade.

Overturning Roe and limiting abortion access has been a leading cause for the Republican Party for the past 50 years. The threat of a post-Roe world was a reality that lawmakers should have considered.

Will They Wake Up in Time?

The Democratic Party is a house divided against itself that struggles in deciding how to tackle its core issues: abortion, police reform, gun reform, minimum wage, and other core planks of the current platform. For example, the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would codify the protections granted in Roe v Wade and Cassey, passed in the House in 2021, The bill failed to pass in the Senate when it was put to a vote after the Politico leak. The final vote, 49 -51, drew lines in the sand, especially with Senator Joe Manchin (D.W.V.), who joined Republicans in voted against passing the bill, despite previous claims that he would support a woman’s right to choose.

Senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (R-AZ) have made a name for themselves in opposing much of Biden’s legislative agenda. Both senators are opposed to ending the filibuster, the one thing many people on both sides of the debate see as preventing the codification of Roe. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) endorsement of pro-abortion Democratic candidate Henry Cullelar, added to the mixed messages from Washington.

There is a considerable rift between the younger and older members of the Democratic Party. Studies show the younger generation tends to be more progressive while the older generation is more moderate. Progressives such as Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have proposed expanding the Supreme Court and for Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Biden is against expanding the Court but formed a bipartisan commission to study potential changes to the Court when he was elected. Even if Democrats could do away with the filibuster, the Biden Administration is concerned that the Supreme Court would overturn any legislation passed in Congress.

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