Stefanik supports bill protecting same-sex marriage, Tenney rejects bill as Democratic stunt

·4 min read

Jul. 20—WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would codify the right to same-sex marriage and interracial marriage into law, something that received a mixed reaction from the north country's Republican Members of Congress.

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, representing the 21st Congressional District and running for reelection to that seat, voted in support of the measure Tuesday, joining with 46 other Republicans. Meanwhile, Rep. Claudia L. Tenney, R-Utica, who represents a Central New York-focused district now but is running for reelection to a new Finger Lakes-centered district that includes southern and western Jefferson County, voted against the measure. She was the only member of Congress from New York to vote against the bill.

The "Respect for Marriage Act," which has been circulated around Congress for years but received new attention after the Supreme Court reversed the Roe v. Wade decision last month. In a concurring opinion on that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to reconsider the court's decisions recognizing the right to same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships.

The Respect for Marriage Act would overturn the "Defense of Marriage Act," legislation passed in the 1990s that defined marriage as between one man and one woman for federal purposes, and allowed states to ignore same-sex marriage licenses issued in other states.

The Defense of Marriage Act was invalidated by Supreme Court decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges and United States v. Windsor, but remains on the books. If the Supreme Court were to readdress those cases, the Defense of Marriage Act would again become active law.

The Respect for Marriage Act would establish that any marriage is valid under federal law if it was legal in the state issuing the marriage license, and bar anyone from denying marriage rights to a couple with an out-of-state marriage license based on sex, race, ethnicity or national origin. The law would not go so far as to enforce same-sex marriage rights in other states, and does nothing to prevent states from refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses if the Supreme Court reverses the Obergefell decision.

On Tuesday, Rep. Stefanik said she voted to support the legislation because she believes marriages should be respected nationwide.

"I believe if you're married in one state, that should be recognized elsewhere," she said. "Just like I believe that you have a concealed carry permit, that should be recognized in another state as well."

On the other side, Congresswoman Tenney said she voted against the measure, not because she disagrees with same-sex marriage, but because she disagreed with the process Democrats used to bring the bill forward.

"Democrats deliberately rushed this bill through Congress without any committee hearings, markups, or input from relevant stakeholders to avoid having a real debate," she said. "Had we followed the rules and debated this bill openly in committee, Republicans would have made clear that same-sex marriage is already protected in America and not under threat, making this bill completely unnecessary."

Rep. Tenney, the only member of New York's Congressional delegation of either party to vote against the measure, said she agrees that the legal decision allowing same-sex marriages nationwide should be protected. The Congresswoman said Democrats were using the issue to score "cheap political points" and distract from the other issues facing the nation, like inflation and the southern border.

With the House having passed the Respect for Marriage Act Tuesday, the bill moves on to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. has not yet announced when or if he plans to bring the bill to a vote there, but its likely to face some opposition there. To pass through the filibuster, ten Republican Senators will have to support the bill along with all Democratic Senators, but only two Republican Senators have publicly supported the measure so far. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not yet made his own position public, and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Tx. has said he believes states should be making their own decisions on which marriages to respect.

President Joseph R. Biden has expressed strong support for the bill, and is likely to sign it into law quickly if it reaches his desk.