Imagine waking up one day to find that a handful of judges had decided that the government could invalidate your marriage. Suddenly, the legal structure that holds your family together can be unraveled, creating uncertainty in some of life’s most intimate areas – child custody, estate planning, medical decisions.
No American has to worry about losing the freedom to marry the person he loves. Citizens should also not fear that a legal right they invoke to organize their lives could be snatched away by conservatives in the Supreme Court. That is why Congress must pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which the House passed last month and will be voted in the Senate as soon as possible this week.
The bill codifies same-sex and interracial marriage rights, which were declared constitutionally protected by the Supreme Court years ago. In 2015, the court ruled in Obergefell vs. Hodges that: gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry, and in 1967, in Loving vs. Virginia, the ban on interracial marriages was lifted.
These rulings were based on the idea that the constitutional right to liberty is related to the right to privacy and autonomy over intimate decisions. But that’s the very same legal logic that has supported abortion rights for nearly 50 years, which the court jettisoned in June by toppling Roe vs. wade. So Americans are rightly nervous that other privacy-based constitutional rights could also be compromised.
Although Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. Writing in front of the majority that the decision to overturn Roe “concerns the constitutional right to abortion and not any other right,” Judge Clarence Thomas wrote alarmingly in agreement, saying he wants the court to make the “demonstrably wrong decisions” regarding the right to contraception, same-sex intimacy and same-sex marriage.
Obviously Americans need insurance policies to protect our freedoms of this extreme court that wants to reverse decades of progress. The Respect for Marriage Act is one of those insurance policies because it enshrines marriage equality in federal law and prohibits states from denying the validity of a marriage entered into in another state. The Act on the Right to Contraception is another insurance policy that Congress should pass to protect the freedom of Americans to use contraception. Congress should have passed the Women’s Health Protection Act months ago to ensure that access to abortion would continue even if the court overturned Roe. It’s embarrassing that that wasn’t the case.
While the Republican opposition has blocked bills enshrining federal abortion and birth control rights in the Senate, the GOP appears to be open to codifying same-sex marriage. It was encouraging to see the Respect for Marriage Act passed by the House with firm votes dual support. About 47 Republicans joined all 220 Democrats to vote for it.
California Republicans were divided. Representatives Ken Calvert (R-Corona), Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita), Darrell Issa (R-Bonsall), Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), and David Valadao (R-Hanford) voted for same-sex marriage rights.
Reps Connie Conway (R-Tulare), Young Kim (R-La Habra), Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove), and Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach ) voted against the protection of those rights.
Five Republican senators have publicly said they will vote for the Respect for Marriage Act. It shouldn’t be hard for a few more GOP backseats to get on the civil rights side. About 71% of Americans say same-sex marriage should be recognized by law. Senators must show they value families and ensure that all couples — regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, or future Supreme Court decisions — have the right to say, “I will.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.