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Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attend a press conference

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attend a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 27, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Senate Democrats Delay Same-Sex Marriage Vote Until After Midterms

"Chuck Schumer needs to hold this vote now. No 'religious liberty' amendments, no more whipping of votes," argued one progressive commentator.

Jake Johnson

Senate Democrats on Thursday opted to delay a vote on legislation codifying same-sex marriage rights into federal law until after the November midterms, seeking more time to get the 10 Republican supporters needed for final passage.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first openly gay person to be elected to the U.S. Senate and the lead Democratic negotiator for the Respect for Marriage Act, told reporters she remains "very confident" that the bill will ultimately pass after the high-stakes midterm contests.

Baldwin added that she wants the bill put on the floor for a vote "the day after the election."

Thus far, just three Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina—have said they will support the Respect for Marriage Act, and Baldwin has been working with the GOP trio to attract more supporters to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.

The bipartisan group had originally planned to release legislative text as soon as Thursday ahead of a potential procedural vote early next week. Meanwhile, Republicans who have yet to back the measure pushed for a delay.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed Thursday to push the vote back after Baldwin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and the three GOP supporters requested more time to win additional Republican votes for the bill, which would codify same-sex marriage rights in the face of a potential attack from the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Through bipartisan collaboration, we've crafted commonsense language that respects religious liberty and Americans' diverse beliefs, while upholding our view that marriage embodies the highest ideals of love, devotion, and family," the five lawmakers said in a joint statement Thursday. "We've asked Leader Schumer for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed."

Justin Goodman, a spokesperson for Schumer, subsequently released a statement saying the Democratic leader is "extremely disappointed that there aren't 10 Republicans in the Senate willing to vote yes on marriage equality legislation at this time."

"Because Leader Schumer's main objective is to pass this important legislation, he will adhere to the bipartisan group of senators' request to delay floor action, and he is 100% committed to holding a vote on the legislation this year before Justice [Clarence] Thomas has a chance to make good on his threat to overturn Obergefell."

There's no guarantee of a successful vote in the wake of the November midterms, elections in which Democrats hope to maintain and expand their narrow Senate majority. A recent survey showed that 62% of U.S. voters support enshrining same-sex marriage rights into federal law.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters Thursday that he had hoped "to put everyone on the record" ahead of the midterms, in which GOP opponents of the Respect for Marriage Act such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) are facing off against champions of marriage equality.

"But I understand the decisions that are made about when the prospects are best for passing the measure," Blumenthal added. "I want a law, not just a bill."

Outside progressives have been more adamant in their calls for a preelection vote.

"Chuck Schumer needs to hold this vote now. No 'religious liberty' amendments, no more whipping of votes," Emma Vigeland of The Majority Report wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. "Make Republicans go on record about marriage equality. Make Ron Johnson vote 'no' on codifying gay marriage as he trails in the polls."

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