The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last month – ending the constitutional right to abortion that was in place for nearly a half century – sent shockwaves across the country and around the world.
Similarly, Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion in the ruling, which suggested that the high court "reconsider" key cases including those that guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage and contraception, lawmakers sprung into action to protect those liberties.
One of those lawmakers was Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who introduced the Respect for Marriage Act alongside Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
The bill would codify protections for same-sex marriage and interracial marriage into law and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman and allowed states to refuse same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.
The provisions of the law were rendered inert by two Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.
The House passed the measure in a 267-157 vote earlier this month, with 47 Republicans supporting the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he wants to put the measure on the Senate floor, but wants to make sure it has the necessary 10 Republican votes it needs to overcome the 60-vote filibuster hurdle.
“We are picking up support every day. I’ve had some amazing conversations about why this is being brought up now and the need for it, Sen. Baldwin told Spectrum News. “And we need 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.”
Baldwin, the first openly LGBT woman elected to both the House and the Senate, has been one of the leading voices for same-sex marriage protections. She gave Spectrum News an update on the behind-the-scenes negotiations to try and drum up Republican support for the bill.
“We have five who have publicly stated that they will be supporting the bill," Baldwin said. "And I have as many who have privately signaled to me or indicated to me that they will support the measure. So we’re very close to the 10 necessary, but frankly, I’d like to have even a few more. So just so we’re certain that when it comes up, it will pass.”
Collins, one of the bill's co-sponsors, warned Thursday that Democrats' support for an inflation-fighting tax and climate agreement brokered by Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., could threaten to derail the measure.
"I just think the timing could not have been worse and it came totally out of the blue," she told HuffPost, adding: "After we just had worked together successfully on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPs bill, it was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way."
She did, however, say that she would "continue to work for support for the bill."
In a surprising move from across the aisle, Baldwin's Republican counterpart, Sen. Ron. Johnson, R-Wisc., publicly signaled support for the measure, saying that he sees "no reason to oppose" the bill, while also deeming it “unnecessary.” Johnson's lukewarm support for the bill comes as he’s facing a tough reelection showdown in his home state.
At a campaign stop in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Sen. Johnson, reiterated that bill is an attempt by Democrats to distract from inflation and high gas prices – two things the Biden administration ultimately has little control over.
He also added, “Unlike Roe v. Wade, this is pretty well-settled law," warning that if the high court overturned the right to same-sex marriage, "you would really disrupt people’s lives."
Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., the only Wisconsin House Republican to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, similarly called it a distraction.
However, he said that “we should have full faith and credit in the United States, between states, as it relates to marriage, as it relates to sex, to race, to ethnicity, and across the board."
"[The] bill doesn’t change anything, [it] doesn’t alter Wisconsin state law," he added. "I thought it was a pretty straightforward text and so I voted. I voted yes.”
“If this passes into law, it will be such an affirmative step," Baldwin said when asked what the bill will mean to the LGBTQ+ community. "It would reflect I think that our policymakers and our members of Congress are catching up with the American public opinion."
Baldwin referenced a Gallup poll from June which showed that 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage, an all-time high.
"That number was very different just a decade ago," Baldwin said. "And I do think this signals that, again, Congress is catching up to the American public in terms of these really critical issues that impact people’s lives and their families.”