Durbin Praises Senate Advancement of the Respect for Marriage Act

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin calls out the Supreme Court’s conservative majority for practicing judicial activism and showing willingness to overturn established constitutional rights

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today told the story of Amanda, an Illinois social worker who will soon be celebrating her fifth anniversary as a married couple with her wife, Cally.

“The two of them have actually been together for eight years, but after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell, they decided it was time to tie the knot,” Durbin said. “That ruling affirmed their love—and, just as important—their constitutional right. The Court declared that the right to marry is a fundamental liberty under the Constitution—for every American, regardless of sexual orientation.  So in 2017, Amanda and her wife exercised that right. And today, they’re the proud parents of two beautiful young children.”

Durbin continued, “Really, that should be the end of the story… But sadly, Amanda and many others are now living in fear. Like millions of Americans, she is facing the very real prospect that this Supreme Court could soon rule that her right to marry the person she loves is not protected by the Constitution. She saw what this radical far-right Supreme Court did with the Dobbs decision just a few months ago… She said, quote, ‘For the first time in our history, Americans are facing the continued loss of civil rights by this Supreme Court.’” 

In his concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Court’s majority found that a right to abortion was not a form of “liberty” protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. He went on to note that the justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including GriswoldLawrence, and Obergefell” – three cases that rely on the same legal reasoning.

Durbin continued, “Remember when they boasted about the fact that Donald Trump was going to put on three justices who would rule his way in future cases? It was pretty clear from that day forward that the Supreme Court had a political bent. The Federalist Society had to give its stamp of approval. Now, the Federalist Society is a multimillion dollar political arm of the Republican Party, and before any judicial nominee had a chance in my Senate Judiciary Committee under the Republican days, they had to get the approval of the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society from the start was setting out to eliminate a woman's right to choose. They had their victory in the Dobbsdecision. But the American people spoke on November 8 and overwhelmingly they said across America: You can't get away with eliminating rights already established in the Constitution for any Americans. I hope that that sentiment grows and eventually we reverse the Dobbs decision. What we’ve seen is exactly the kind of judicial activism we can come to expect from the Court's conservative majority. They twist the law and set aside long-standing precedent to establish the policies they prefer. But it's not the Supreme Court’s role to make the laws.”

Today, the Senate advanced the Respect for Marriage Act, led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Rob Portman (R-OH), by a vote of 62-37. This legislation repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and safeguards same-sex and interracial marriage by requiring the recognition of valid marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.” 

Durbin concluded, “Today we can defend families like Amanda's by voting for the Respect for Marriage Act, which [advanced] just a few moments ago here on the floor of the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote. It will protect marriage equality under the federal law, not just for LGBTQ couples but also interracial couples whose rights could also be in peril by the Court's far-right majority. The issue of marriage equality is too important to get bogged down in partisanship… I hope that getting 60 votes for the Respect for Marriage Act is going to be an indication of more cooperation to guarantee that Amanda and Cally do not have to lose sleep over the future they have.” 

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.