In a concurring opinion that was part of the court’s recent conclusions in Dobbs, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas questioned the foundations of key prior cases in which the court established legal recognition for the right to same-sex marriage and the right for married couples to access contraception.
The House will now be voting on measures to preemptively establish new protections on those fronts in case Thomas or anybody else is eventually able to actually undercut the protections that are already in place. The majority opinion in Dobbs, in which a conservative majority on the court overturned Roe v. Wade, attempted to establish a clear distinction between the arguments against Roe and deliberations over other court-recognized rights, insisting going after abortion access wasn’t meant to undercut marriage equality or the like. However, Thomas in his concurring opinion undercut that argument of conservatives maintaining some strict separation between the two.
On Tuesday, the House will be voting on the initiative to protect marriage equality. Its future after the House is unclear, but if enacted, the bill — known as the Respect for Marriage Act — would mandate the validity of any marriage be recognized nationwide if it was legal where it was originally perform. The bill would also overturn the 1996 law known as the Defense of Marriage Act. Although the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize marriage rights for same-sex couples superseded that measure, it’s remained technically on the books in a manner similar to the pre-Roe abortion restrictions with which advocates, healthcare providers, and officials are now dealing around the United States. That 1996 measure formally defined marriage to exclude same-sex couples and allowed individual states to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of same-sex marriages conducted elsewhere.
On Wednesday, the House will be voting on an initiative “To protect a person’s ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception,” as an official summary explains. Because of the Senate’s infamous filibuster rules, which demand the agreement of at least 60 members of the 100-Senator chamber before moving forward with most legislative initiatives, both of the bills the House would be voting on this week might be existentially threatened — for now — by GOP obstruction and extremism. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) indicated she backs the marriage equality effort, but that leaves nine remaining GOP votes that Democratic leaders need. Last week, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) attempted to advance a bill establishing abortion-related travel protections by unanimous consent, but Republicans blocked her attempt.
There have been concerns that child-bearing and potentially child-bearing people could be targeted by state and local officials in their home jurisdictions for pursuing an abortion or reproductive healthcare across state lines in the event they’re restricted from doing so where they live. The House already passed the bill on which Cortez Masto attempted to force a vote. Electing two additional Democratic Senators would give the Dems a majority in the Senate potentially in support of changing filibuster rules to make passing these critical initiatives more feasible, although retaining the House would also no doubt be necessary for that scenario.