Chances appear to be improving for Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect the rights of same sex couples to marry, a right that is now supported by 71 percent of Americans, according to the most recent Gallup poll.
"We're talking about 71 percent of the country that wants to see marriage equality," said Terry Livingston, co-founder of Grand Strand Pride, a gay rights organization in the coastal area of South Carolina. "Yet, here we are in 2022 and we're still fighting to keep marriage equality."
Livingston is among the many voices that are pressing the U.S. Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, approved by the House July 19 by a vote of 267-157, including
47 Republicans who joined all 220 Democrats. Now, the Senate must pass the bill so it can be sent to President Biden for his signature. Ten Republican votes are needed to overcome an expected filibuster by Republicans.
With the strong -- and growing -- popular support for marriage equality, Livingston said on The Lean to the Left Podcast that he doesn't understand why there is any question about the measure winning bipartisan support in the Senate. That support has steadily grown in recent years.
The 71 percent level of support identified by Gallup is in contrast to the 27 percent who supported legalizing same sex unions in 1996, but by 2011 that support reached a majority level, and then reached 60 percent in 2015.
According to Gallup, adults 65 and older became mostly supportive in 2016, as did Protestants in 2017 and Republicans in 2021. However, still holding out are weekly church goers, with only 40 percent in support of sex marriage and percent against.
Livingston stresses the importance of passing the Respect for Marriage Act, especially in a state like South Carolina, which still has a law on the books that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
If it does not become law, he says, it is possible that some 32 states could end up banning same sex marriage and his own marriage could be nullified should the Supreme Court overturn the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which protects such unions. That possibility was raised by conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in comments submitted with the court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. He suggested that such fundamental rights that are not specifically guaranteed legislatively or in the Constitution should be reviewed.
The New York Times on Aug. 4, reporting on efforts by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WS), to convince Senators to support the bill, said five Republican senators -- Ron Johnson (WS), Susan Collins (ME), Rob Portman (OH), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC) intend to vote yes. The Times report says that at least five other Republicans have assured Baldwin they also will support the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to bring to a vote sometime after Labor Day.
Sen. Baldwin was the first openly gay woman to be elected to Congress in 1999 and is in a pivotal position to convince enough Republicans to assure the bill's passage.
For Livingston, who's committed to supporting LGBTQ+ rights in South Carolina, a conservative, deep-red state, it's all about the freedom to marry whomever you want. "I think the country's at a point where marriage is marriage, which is how it should be," he says on the podcast.
Listen to the audio version of the interview: