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Negotiators of the Senate gay marriage bill face key questions about what it will look like and how they will pass it as they continue to meet in an effort to advance the legislation ahead of the midterm elections.
Among the main issues, some Republicans are calling for an amendment to address religious conscience protections, which may be necessary for the bill to remove the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold. Additionally, the chamber’s limited time means the bill is competing with other priorities for votes and debate.
A Democratic source on Capitol Hill told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that senior Senate Democrats had been discussing whether to include the bill in a government funding package that must pass, called a continuing resolution. In theory, this could save time by combining multiple Democratic priorities and attract some reluctant Republicans who want to avoid a government shutdown to vote for the bill.
However, Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the original sponsors of the Senate marriage equality bill, on Tuesday expressed some doubts about the idea, though they did not reject it outright.
GAY MARRIAGE BILL, OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUES REMAIN IN LIMBO AS SENATE RETURNS FROM AUGUST RECESS
“We’re going to talk about it tomorrow with the group. I’ll refrain from commenting, except to say I’m skeptical,” Portman told Fox News Digital on Tuesday. “I think it’s better to deal with it on the merits.”
“Attaching the legislation to a CR is not the senator’s preferred path, as she would like to see it adopted sooner,” a spokesperson for Baldwin’s office said. “The Senator’s goal is to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, and she will do whatever it takes to get it done.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., promised a vote on gay marriage but did not commit to a timetable, emphasizing the importance of time-consuming appellate court confirmations. A continuing resolution would need to be passed before the end of September.
Details of a possible amendment on religious protections are also yet to be decided.
This is a priority for some Republicans who are open to voting to codify gay marriage rights, but also want to make sure the bill doesn’t inadvertently hurt Americans’ First Amendment rights. It could also risk upsetting some Democrats if they think it goes too far,
Baldwin said senators hope to finish working on that in the next few days.
“There have been some excellent talks about an amendment to address the many concerns of those who would like to get to yes,” Baldwin told reporters. “People have been reviewing the language. We will post it publicly later this week.”
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A spokesman for Baldwin’s office also said he “will be meeting with his Republican colleagues this week to compare notes on his outreach efforts to gain more support from Senate Republicans.”
Congressional efforts to pass legislation protecting gay marriage rights followed a separate Supreme Court opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas in June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which said the court should “reconsider” its precedent on the issue.
No other justices joined Thomas, but that opinion became a major campaign issue for Democrats and spurred lawmakers of both parties to draft legislation that would require states to recognize same-sex marriage, even if that precedent eventually falls.