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House Debates Gay Marriage and Contraception Access
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House Debates Gay Marriage and Contraception Access

Democrats are poised to pass bills this week to protect same-sex marriage and access to birth control nationwide.

Good morning. I watched the House Rules Committee meeting last night so you don’t have to. (You’re missing out, though. There’s nothing like it in the world.)

House to Consider Bill Protecting Gay Marriage

The House is expected to approve a bill protecting gay marriages across the country today, a response to the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision regarding abortion.

While Republicans argue it is unlikely that any group will make a concerted effort to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges—the 2015 decision that made gay marriage legal nationwide—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out in his concurring Dobbs opinion that the rationale that returned abortion policy decisions to the states could extend to other cases, including Obergefell. Democrats are moving to respond while they still hold both chambers of Congress. It’s not clear whether the bill will ultimately win enough support in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Democrats would need backing from at least 10 Republicans to pass it there.

During a Rules Committee meeting Monday night, GOP lawmakers continued to question the likelihood of a decision overturning Obergefell, with Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy quipping that the position is not popular. He raised procedural complaints, questioning why the bill hadn’t come up in a committee hearing where members could debate and amend it before Democrats brought it to the floor for a vote. He also noted that Democratic leaders had released it on short notice. The legislation, he said, raises questions about the role of the federal government. During the hearing, Roy avoided confronting the substance of the debate over gay marriage. But afterward, he made his position more clear via Twitter: He opposes same-sex marriage. (Asked on Tuesday morning if Roy would support any kind of national legal protections for existing gay marriages, his office did not answer directly but said Roy will release a comment on the vote later today.)

The bill would require states to recognize marriages across state boundaries if the marriages were legal where they were performed. Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, said that LGBT people are worried.

“We don’t have time to waste,” he said. “I applaud this committee for moving quickly.” 

Some Republicans on the committee hinted they may be open to negotiating with Democrats about legal protections for gay marriages.

“People could very well agree on this bill, quite frankly,” said Rep. Tom Cole, the top Republican on the Rules Committee. “But some discussion where people that had questions could pose them would really be in order.”

It seemed unlikely that Cole would vote for it: He called the process “malpractice.” The bill, he added, is “terrible legislation” and an “embarrassment to the institution.”

It’s not yet clear how many Republicans will support the bill when it comes forward today: Some members expect dozens of GOP lawmakers to back it, per Punchbowl News. Republican lawmakers aren’t whipping members one way or another on the bill, giving them room to make their own decisions.             

The Rules Committee hearing served as a preview of other debates that will unfold on the House floor this week. GOP lawmakers raised similar procedural complaints when the panel discussed a measure to create a statutory right to access contraception. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican who practiced as an OB/GYN for more than two decades, said he doesn’t believe anyone is seriously trying to prevent contraception access in America. He said Republicans would have collaborated with Democrats on the bill if they had brought it up in a committee.

Cole, the Oklahoma Republican, made the same argument.

“Don’t complain about not getting agreement when you don’t even try,” he said.

They said they have concerns about the bill as written. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers questioned how far the legislation would go in preventing states from regulating the issue: If a young teenager were to choose to get sterilization surgery, would requiring parental consent be deemed an infringement of the rights created in the bill?

Rep. Kim Schrier, a Democrat from Washington and a former pediatrician, argued cases like that are rare. She said Republicans were “overreading” the bill.

A vote on the contraception access legislation is likely Wednesday.

On the Floor

Beyond the gay marriage and contraception bills, the House will also consider a package of government funding bills this week. A full list of bills members may vote on this week is available here.

The Senate is considering judicial nominations this week.

Key Hearings

  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee is meeting this morning to examine America’s economic policy response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Information and livestream here.

  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is meeting this morning for a hearing on addressing weapons of mass destruction and health security threats. Information and livestream here.

  • This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing from the director of a task force targeting the assets of Russian oligarchs. Information and livestream here.

  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this morning on implementing the bipartisan infrastructure bill Congress approved last year. Information and livestream here.

  • The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear from gun manufacturers and gun violence prevention advocates during a hearing Wednesday morning. Information and livestream here.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will examine how to protect American communities from mass shootings during a hearing Wednesday morning. Information and livestream here

  • The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on threats to election officials and election infrastructure. Information and livestream here.

  • A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will meet Wednesday morning for a hearing on holding Russia accountable for atrocity crimes it is committing in Ukraine. Information and livestream here.

  • The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol will hold a hearing Thursday night focusing on the White House’s slow response and former President Donald Trump’s actions as his supporters overran the building. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.