(WB) Despite indications the U.S. Senate would soon take up legislation seeking to codify same-sex marriage into law, the legislation now appears to have to wait until after the mid-term elections.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) issued a joint statement Sept. 15 with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announcing the delay in the vote.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple but important step which provides certainty to millions of Americans in loving marriages,” the statement says. “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. We’ve asked Leader Schumer for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed. We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.”

Baldwin, speaking to reporters after the weekly meeting Democratic caucus, was more specific about the time frame and said the vote would have been after the congressional mid-term election, according to a report in Politico.

“I’m still very confident that the bill will pass but we will be taking the bill up later, after the election,” Baldwin was quoted as saying.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled he would commit to having a vote on the marriage bill before the year’s end after the announcement of a delay.

“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 percent committed to holding a vote on the legislation this year before Justice Thomas has a chance to make good on his threat to overturn Obergefell,” said Justin Goodman, a Schumer spokesperson.

Baldwin as well as fellow Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — each leader in talks on the legislation — were seen huddling in discussion on the Senate floor, according to Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman.

It’s unclear why the vote is now delayed until after the election. The expectation was Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would soon start the procedural process and file cloture to call for 60 votes to end a filibuster on the bill, which would mean as soon as next week.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had signaled he may be able to vote on the legislation and reportedly met with Baldwin earlier in the day, suggested the explanation may be the belief a vote at a later time would bolster the chances of success.

“We should have a vote when you’ve got the votes. They’ll get more votes than November and December than they get on Monday,” Blunt was quoted as saying. “If I wanted [it] to pass and I was the majority leader and I wanted to get as many votes as I could possibly get, I’d wait until after the election.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which had made lobbyists for the Respect for Marriage Act part of its LGBTQ work, issued a statement lambasting the Republicans upon the announcement of the delay for not having 10 votes to approve the Respect for Marriage Act right now.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is an incredibly necessary, popular and bipartisan bill – and the and the lack of 10 Republican yes votes right now is extremely disappointing,” said Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Marriage equality – for both LGBTQ+ and interracial couples – is not and should not be a partisan issue, and to treat it as such is an insult to the millions of families who are impacted.”

Lawmakers were working on language for an amendment to accommodate religious objections in hopes it would attract further Republican supporters. A proposed measure, Democratic aides told the Blade, would have mirrored the existing 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but go further.

Prior to the announcement the vote would be delayed, lawmakers had appeared to have finished work on the religious freedom provision.

According to Politico, Collins told reporters she and a handful of other senators had finished their work hashing out changes designed to clarify religious freedom safeguards. Baldwin and Collins, Politico reported, expected the text of the legislation to be released on Sept. 15.


 SFGN and the Washington Blade are media partners.


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