Senate Passes Historic Gay-Marriage Bill, No Thanks to Rick Scott and Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio arrives at a political rally where he appeared alongside Donald Trump at the Miami-Dade fairgrounds on November 6, 2022
Marco Rubio arrives at a political rally where he appeared alongside Donald Trump at the Miami-Dade fairgrounds on November 6, 2022 Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Barely a week after turning back a nationwide red tide many predicted would engulf Congress, the U.S. Senate appears to be on an unstoppable course to pass federal legislation that would preserve same-sex marriage.

On November 16, by a vote of 62 to 37, the Senate broke a filibuster that had threatened to derail the legislation.

The Senate's 50 Democrats were joined by 12 Republicans — a seemingly clear reflection of a national trend toward acceptance of gay marriage.

To the surprise of no one who has noted the direction of the political winds in the Sunshine State, Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott were not among the aye-sayers.

As went Florida in last week's midterm elections, so went the state's two senators on Wednesday afternoon. Republicans joining Democrats in the majority on the marriage equality vote were:

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
Todd Young (Indiana)
Joni Ernst (Iowa)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Roy Blunt (Missouri)
Richard M. Burr (North Carolina)
Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Mitt Romney (Utah)
Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia)
Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming)

The timing of Wednesday's vote was crucial: If the existing Democratic majority fails to push through a final version of the Respect for Marriage Act before year's end, it could face opposition when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives on January 3, 2023. The house passed the initial legislation in July by a 267 to 157 vote.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade and its abortion-rights guarantee earlier this year, many feared the conservative-dominated body would do the same to its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In that case, a narrow majority of five justices held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires both marriage licensing and recognition for same-sex couples.

Should the justices overturn Obergefell, same-sex marriage laws would revert back to individual states, but the Respect for Marriage Act would take precedence by requiring every state to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in states where they are legal.

Earlier this year, Rubio reportedly went so far as to dismiss the Respect for Marriage Act as "unnecessary" and a "stupid waste of time," arguing that Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion in the case that overturned Roe (Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization) was crafted so as to separate abortion from other privacy rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment — like same-sex marriage.

Given Florida's current political tilt, it might not be long until same-sex-marriage-minded Floridians have to pack an overnight bag to find a state where they can exchange vows.

That said, there are worse places than North Carolina for two people to embark on their journey together through life.
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Tom Finkel began his journalism career in Miami in 1989, when New Times, then a fledgling weekly, hired him as a proofreader. He left as managing editor nine years later, only to return in 2019, having served in the meantime as editor-in-chief of City Pages in Minneapolis, Riverfront Times in St. Louis, and the Village Voice in New York City.
Contact: Tom Finkel

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