Jul 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

13 House members voted against same-sex marriage — then to protect it

Number of U.S. House votes in support of marriage equality, by party and year
Data: U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Seventeen current U.S. House members — including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — voted just 26 years ago to define marriage as between one man and one woman and allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.

Why it matters: Thirteen of those members have since changed their positions — voting Tuesday to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enshrine marriage equality into federal law. Solid Democratic support for marriage equality — much less bipartisan support — is a remarkably recent phenomenon.

By the numbers: In 1996, 118 out of 198 House Democrats voted in favor of DOMA, along with 224 out of 234 Republicans.

  • Just one Republican — openly gay former Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) — voted against the bill, while nine others did not vote.
  • Eleven of those Democrats are still in Congress and voted to repeal the 1996 bill on Tuesday.
  • Two Republicans still serving changed their 1996 positions and voted to codify same-sex marriage rights: Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ken Calvert (R-Calif.).
  • Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) did not vote in 1996 and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) voted present at the time. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) did not vote on Tuesday but voted for the 1996 bill.

The big picture: The striking shift in Congress reflects the broader trend of Americans overwhelmingly supporting same-sex marriage, especially since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing it nationwide.

  • In 1996, only 27% of Americans thought same-sex marriages should be legal, compared to 71% of Americans today, according to Gallup.

Between the lines: The provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act have already been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • But Congress is poised to codify marriage equality in the wake of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade.
  • The Senate is considering taking up the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act after several Republicans indicated they would support it on Wednesday.
Go deeper