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House of Representatives passes bills to protect federal right to same sex marriage and contraception
July 26, 2022
The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on July 19 called the Respect for Marriage Act which, if passed, would codify Obergefell V. Hodges into federal law and repeal the ‘90s era Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as “between one man and one woman.”
Three days later, on July 22, the House passed a similar bill called the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify Griswold V. Connecticut into law, ensuring the right to purchase and use contraceptives.
Both bills come a short time after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs V. Jackson, which overturned the federal right to abortion June 24. In his opinion, Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell”
Thomas’s opinion sparked immediate concern and calls for action among progressive advocates, culminating in the passing of the two aforementioned bills.
Both bills will need to pass the Senate with 60 votes to be ratified and signed into law by President Joe Biden. Of the two, the Respect for Marriage act is seen as more likely to pass, as it passed the House with relatively bipartisan support, receiving 47 Republican votes in its favor.
Several Republican Senators have signaled their support for the bill already. Including Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. According to The Hill, another 8-10 Republicans could also potentially vote yes as well.
The future of the Right to Contraception Act is less certain as only 8 Republican representatives voted in favor of this bill, and the reception from the Republican senators who have commented on the matter has been negative.
Conservatives such as Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson claim that the bill is needless political posturing from Democrats, while, according to NBC, Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris sees it as an effort to “trojan horse” relegalizing abortion by including access to medical abortifacients such as abortion pills in the legislation. Speaking with Axios, Republican Senator Josh Hawley stated while he has no intention to overturn Griswold, he wants to ensure a lack of an ulterior motive.
Hawley said,“[I wanted to] make sure [the bill is] actually about contraception and not about abortifacients.”
These two bills are indicative of a backlash against the Supreme Court’s conservative 6-3 supermajority, which has announced several controversial decisions over recent months. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emphasized the urgency of the need to pass the bills in a statement made on July 21.
“This is their moment. Clarence Thomas has made that clear, right down to the fundamentals of privacy they want to erase,” Pelosi said. “With this passage, Democrats will make clear we will never quit in the fight against the outrageous right-wing assault on freedom.”
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