Sep 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Senators seek to clarify gay marriage bill doesn't protect polygamy

Susan Collins
Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senators spearheading a bill to codify marriage equality rights are eyeing fixes to the legislation that would clarify it does not protect polygamous relationships or marriage between more than two individuals.

Why it matters: It's one of the steps being taken to secure the 10 Republican votes needed to break a filibuster and send the House-passed bill to President Biden's desk.

Driving the news: Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Wednesday the move is being discussed after some Republican lawmakers privately raised concerns.

  • "We are listening carefully to the concerns that have been raised by some of our colleagues," Collins told reporters.
  • She cited a "drafting error" in the bill: "One part of the bill, it makes very clear that marriage is between two individuals, and another part of the bill, the language needs to be clarified."
  • Baldwin told Axios: "I don't remember the first person who raised it, but in any event, the amendment we’re working on clarifies so there's no uncertainty about it."

Yes, but: Both senators stressed that the fix is geared toward assuaging the concerns of key senators and that the bill wouldn't open the door for legalized polygamy in any case.

  • "There is not a single state that allows for polygamous marriages," said Collins.

What we're hearing: The fixes would come as part of an amendment the senators have been crafting for the last month to clarify that the bill also wouldn't infringe on religious liberty, according to a source close to the negotiations. That amendment is key to getting swing Republicans on board.

  • "The current version, I wouldn't vote for it because of all the issues raised about religious liberty," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), adding that he'd need to "look at the amendments" before deciding whether he would vote for a changed version.
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), one of the senators supporting the bill, said the amendment would "address legitimate concerns. I think it's made the bill better."

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference on Wednesday the bill will be voted on "in the coming weeks."

  • With in-person talks underway, senators whipping GOP support for the bill projected confidence that the votes will be there when it's brought to the floor.
  • "I think the momentum is going in the right direction, and, yeah, I think it's going to have good support," said Baldwin.
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