Sen. Capito

Sen. Capito walks through the halls on Capitol Hill in this file photo.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined 11 of her GOP colleagues last week to advance the Respect for Marriage Act, which had been stalled by a filibuster that required 60 votes to move it forward to a vote.

The bill would codify same-sex marriages and prohibit a state from not recognizing a same-sex marriage performed in another state.

One of the purposes of the Respect for Marriage Act is to be ready if the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, in which the Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage was a fundamental right protected by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The ruling requires all states to perform and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the court “should reconsider” rights like birth control and same sex marriage in future decisions after the court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) officially repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and requires the federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages in the United States. The bill aims to codify these protections.

Capito voted to advance the act, but made it clear the bill “ensures all religious liberty and conscience protections provided to religious organizations under the Constitution and existing federal law, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Non-profit religious organizations will not be required to provide any support for same-sex marriage, or see their benefits, rights, or status, altered when these rights do not arise from the specific issue of marriage.”

“In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court clearly stated that the federal judiciary should not be a policy-making entity,” she said. “I firmly agreed with this decision, and continue to believe that major policy decisions should be made within Congress and state legislatures. I appreciate my fellow West Virginians who have reached out to me regarding the sanctity of marriage, and hold sincere beliefs based on strong traditional and religious values. These convictions must be respected, and no religious entity should be persecuted by any individual, organization, or government institution for the beliefs they hold.”

Capito said the legislation will “allow those who have entered into a civil partnership since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, to continue to have their partnerships respected for federal benefit purposes.”

“This does not lessen the traditional sanctity of marriage or jeopardize the freedom of religious institutions,” she said. “The House-passed legislation raised concerns among many about protecting religious freedoms, which is why my colleagues and I worked to strengthen those protections in the substitute amendment. I will be supporting the substitute amendment because it will ensure our religious freedoms are upheld and protected, one of the bedrocks of our democracy.”

In July, the House passed the RMA by a vote of 267-157, with 47 Republicans siding with Democrats. West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney voted against it. Representatives David McKinley and Carol Miller did not vote. Virginia 9th District Republican Rep. Morgan Griffith voted against it.

After last week’s Senate vote to advance, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who introduced the Senate bill along with Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Robert Portman (R-Ohio), released a statement.

“In overturning Roe v. Wade, the conservative Supreme Court majority indicated it is willing to attack other constitutional rights, including same-sex and interracial marriage,” she said. “In fact, one justice specifically noted that the court’s Obergefell decision confirming same-sex marriage should be revisited. Our bill would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that marriage equality remains the law of the land.”

Collins also released a statement, saying Maine voters legalized same-sex marriages in the state nearly a decade ago, “and since Obergefell, all Americans have had the right to marry the person whom they love.”

“During my time in the Senate, I have been proud to support legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, from strengthening hate crime prevention laws, to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to ensuring workplace equality,” she said. “This bill is another step to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the rights of all Americans.”

Capito’s leadership role in the Senate also expanded last week as she was elected by her Senate Republican colleagues to serve as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

“After serving as a member of the broader Senate Republican leadership team for several years, I am excited to expand my role and officially take on the responsibilities as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference,” she said. “It’s so important that we listen more to the men and women across our country raising families and working hard to strengthen America, especially as we strive together to address the challenges we face. I am committed to doing just that, and look forward to working with my colleagues to help communicate our optimistic vision for the future.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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