Dec 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Some House Republicans may flip to "yes" on marriage equality vote

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) speaks to reporters after a House Republican Caucus meeting at the Capitol in 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Legislation codifying federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage could be on track to garner more Republican support than it got in a broad bipartisan vote over the summer, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: The House is scheduled to vote Thursday to send the legislation to President Biden's desk, according to a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What they're saying: Several House Republicans who voted "no" on the House bill in July said they are reconsidering their votes after the Senate's changes.

  • Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) – who said in July he voted against the bill out of concern it would enable polygamous marriage, which senators took steps to address – told Axios he will "probably" vote for it on Thursday.
  • Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), said he is still reviewing the Senate version, telling Axios, “It’s a very different bill than it was over here.”
  • Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Axios he is "looking at the bill" and that religious freedom is "the issue that everybody started getting hung up on" — though he said "federalizing" a state issue is another concern.

Yes, but: Others said they are likely sticking by their "no" votes.

  • Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), who generated headlines for attending his gay son’s wedding just days after voting against the bill, said of the Senate changes, "From what I've seen so far, it doesn't look like it changed my vote."
  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said he will vote "likely the same way I already voted," calling same-sex marriage a "tough issue."

The other side: The Senate changes aren't expected to diminish House Democrats' unanimous support for the bill.

  • LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.), when asked if Democrats have any problems with the bill as amended, told Axios, "Nope."

The backdrop: The bill was introduced in July in response to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas arguing that, after overturning Roe v. Wade, the court should revisit cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.

  • In the process of cobbling together the GOP support needed to break a filibuster, a bipartisan group of senators changed the bill to clarify it doesn't infringe on religious liberty.
  • Three proposed GOP amendments to further protect religious liberty were voted down by the Senate.

The big picture: Americans' attitudes on same-sex marriage have relaxed considerably in recent decades – but Republicans have been slower to come around.

  • A Pew Research poll released last month found that 61% of American adults believe same-sex marriage is good for society.
  • Republicans and Republican-leaning independently still tilt against it: 43% said they view same-sex marriage positively, while 55% say they see it negatively.

Between the lines: Some Republicans who voted for the bill said they have been on the receiving end of enormous pressure to change their votes.

  • "My days since the first cloture vote on the Respect for Marriage Act have involved a painful exercise in accepting admonishment and fairly brutal self-soul searching," Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said in a floor speech last week.
  • Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) told Axios she heard from "many activists" upset about her vote based on concerns about individual liberty.
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