GOP Sen. Ron Johnson Tries to Explain Flip on Marriage Equality Vote

·3 min read
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has changed his stance on the Respect for Marriage Act, saying he won’t support it.

In July, he announced he viewed “no reason” to oppose the bill, which would allow someone to be considered married in any state provided the marriage was valid.

Then in August, he told Axios “I’ve never said I would support it,” he said. “I said I didn’t see a reason to oppose it.”

Now, audio obtained by Heartland Signal reveals Johnson claiming he released his July statement only “to get [the media] off my back” about the topic.

Johnson claimed that members of the congressional press corps had “hounded” him to clarify his opinion on the Respect for Marriage Act, the Washington Post reports.

Congressional Democrats immediately moved that bill after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in its Dobbs decision this summer.

In his concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas had written that, in his opinion, other rights, like same-sex couples engaging in consensual sexual activity or the right to marriage equality, should be revisited by the Supreme Court.

Democrats and LGBTQ+ allies and activists have been ringing the alarm for months as Republicans have endeavored on an all-out assault on LGBTQ+ people, LGBTQ+ rights, and even LGBTQ-related topics of conversation in schools.

Legal experts point to this week’s ruling out of the Northern District of Texas as an example of how the right is bent on taking away the rights of some Americans.

This week, federal district judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of plaintiffs who claimed that requiring insurance companies to cover preventative care options like medications used to protect from HIV, such as preexposure prophylaxis or PrEP, violated their religious beliefs and, therefore, was unconstitutional.

Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general and attorney who brought that case, claimed in the lawsuit that access to PrEP “encourages homosexual behavior.”

Johnson explained why he said one thing and ended up doing another.

“You have to understand the process here. You’re walking down the subway in the Capitol and all of a sudden you get descended [on] by national press… You just get hounded on this crap, right? So, just to get ’em off my backs, I wrote a press release. And I said I always supported civil unions, never felt that we needed to do anything other than that, but then the Supreme Court ruled [on abortion], and I just considered the matter settled.”

He continued, “Justice Thomas is probably right that [Obergefell] was wrongly decided, but that’s a different issue as to whether or not the Supreme Court will overturn it. They never will,” Johnson said. “… With all those caveats, I said at this point, I don’t see reason to oppose it — to get them off my back, okay?”

Johnson claims that he and Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee are working on a “smokin’ amendment” to the bill, which he says would protect the religious liberties of those opposed to marriage equality.

According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Senate will vote soon on the proposal, which codifies protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.