Jul 21, 2022 - Politics

Utah's Republican congressmen move to protect same-sex marriage

Illustration of the US eagle seal holding the rainbow flag.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

All four of Utah's congressmen crossed party lines on Tuesday to vote in favor of a bill that would codify same-sex marriage in the U.S.

  • Republican Reps. John Curtis, Blake Moore, Burgess Owens, and Chris Stewart joined House Democrats and 43 other House Republicans in supporting the bill.
  • The measure passed the House by a 267-157 vote.

Details: The Respect for Marriage Act seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act by writing same-sex and interracial marriages into federal law.

  • It was introduced after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring Roe v. Wade opinion that same-sex marriage should be revisited.

Between the lines: Damon Mann, a political science professor at Utah State University, previously thought the odds of Utah's House delegation voting in favor of a same-sex marriage bill were slim.

  • "It is kind of a big deal because of the historical conservatism of the state," Mann said.
  • He added that Republicans could be using this issue to dampen any backlash for their support of the recent overturning of Roe. v. Wade.
  • Some Republicans, Mann said, have downplayed the bill's significance, arguing it is just meant to clean up federal code.

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said the vote signals the reassurance that Republicans are not looking to repeal same-sex marriage.

  • "I have seen positions change over time when it comes to same-sex marriage. The conversations are much different than what were happening in political circles just five, 10 years ago," he said. "I think that this is one of the issues that is more settled under the law."
  • Perry said Republicans may not also want to give Democrats motivating issues ahead of November's midterm election.
  • Of note: Curtis, Moore, Owens, and Stewart, who this year are all running for re-election, are likely to keep their seats after winning their respective primary races last month.

What they're saying: "The majority opinion of the Supreme Court clearly stated that the Court has no intention of reversing any decisions respecting the right to marriage in the Constitution," Curtis said in a statement on Tuesday.

  • "That said, I also understand how important codifying these protections are to many Utahns. I do not believe the federal government should infringe upon an individual’s decision about who they wish to marry."

Equality Utah, an LGBTQ rights organization, thanked the members of Congress for their support and called on Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney to follow suit.

  • "Utahns know the value of family and marriage, and these four votes cast today reflect that understanding. We look forward to the Respect for Marriage Act moving on to the Senate," said their statement.

What's next: The legislation is expected to be taken up in the U.S. Senate.

  • It's unclear whether Democrats will be successful in convincing 10 Senate Republicans to support the bill in order for it to pass out of the chamber.

What we're watching: It will be intriguing to see how Romney and Lee, who are both known to vote against the grain on partisan issues, will vote.

  • Romney has called the legislation unnecessary and has not revealed how he would vote.
  • A spokesperson for Lee did not respond to Axios Salt Lake City's request for comment.
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