#429: On the 'Respect for Marriage Act'
A few thoughts.
MLA: My apologies for being quiet the past two weeks. A combination of travel, other writing, Thanksgiving, and illness has left me bereft of both time and energy for the newsletter. I hope to be back to ordinary practices here soon.
Also: reminder that I’ll be in Anaheim on Saturday talking about gratitude. If you are in the area, the event is free!
The Senate passed the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” this afternoon, which extended protections for same-sex couples throughout federal law. The bill was predicated on the possibility of Obergefell being overruled by the Supreme Court at some point in the next few years. From what I can tell, the only reason people are anxious about that happening is because of Clarence Thomas’ solo concurrence in Dobbs, which suggested it could be likely—despite the majority opinion bending over backwards to stress that it only applied to abortion.
The bill is being regarded as a huge win for Democrats, and as a massive advancement for gay rights in this country. That is unfortunate, because while it is significant, it does not offer nearly as extensive protections for gay marriage as people claim. Essentially, it allows those who entered into gay unions between Obergefell and whenever it would be overturned to continue to have their marriages recognized by the federal government, and to be granted reciprocity in various states. But should Obergefell be done away with, at present new gay marriages would be prohibited in a significant number of states. The idea that this secures ‘marriage equality’ is a farce: it does nothing of the kind. There’s a reason why a progressive activist like Charlotte Clymer hates the bill, but thinks Dems should accept it anyway.
The branding of the bill as a ‘huge win for gay marriage’ is also a problem for those Republicans who supported it—as it makes it seem like they supported the bill out of an interest in extending protections for gay couples, rather than as a prudential compromise that offered a way of securing certain religious liberty protections without having to trade very much for them.
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