In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 267-157 to write same-sex marriage into federal law, as lawmakers sought to shore up hard-won rights that it fears the right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court could take away.
Coastal Georgia’s representative in Congress, Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, wasn’t among the 47 Republicans who joined Democrats in approving the Respect for Marriage Act. The measure also would protect interracial marriage and repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
In a statement provided by his office on Wednesday explaining his vote, Rep. Carter said the issues raised in the legislation were already “settled law,” adding: “I came to Congress to vote on real issues that improve Georgia’s First District, not rushed legislation based on fearmongering rhetoric from the left.”
Still, more than political bluster and posturing appear to be behind the fear of the bill’s sponsors and supporters that without federal legislation, previously secured rights on marriage and contraception might be rolled back by the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing majority. The Court ruled in 2015 that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.
The constitutional right to abortion was considered “settled law” until the Court last month overturned Roe v. Wade in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
In his concurring opinion in Dobbs, Coastal Georgia’s Clarence Thomas said the high court shouldn’t stop with abortion and other rights thought “settled.” The Pin Point native recommended that as a next move, it strike down a half century’s worth of “demonstrably erroneous” precedents establishing the right to contraception, the right to same-sex sexual conduct, and the right to same-sex marriage.
In the wake of Tuesday’s vote, Wade Herring, Carter’s Democratic opponent in this fall’s election, called the incumbent “dangerously extreme” and said his rival had “once again demonstrated that he puts politics and division before basic human rights and the people he is supposed to represent.
“We cannot return to a time when marriages were banned because of race or sex,” Herring said in a statement late Wednesday. “We are a diverse nation, with widely differing views and belief systems, but I remain convinced that we can find a way to live together as neighbors in our democracy.”
The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for action. Majority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday he was working to gather support for the measure.
The Tide brings news and observations from The Current staff.