November 28, 2022

Wyden Calls for Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act

As prepared for delivery

M. President, a little later on today the Senate is going to vote on the Respect for Marriage Act. 

This vote is an affirmation that the United States Senate will stand up and protect the right of all Americans to marry the person they love. 

Although this is about codifying rights that same-sex couples already enjoy, this is still an important step in a long-running struggle for equality. 

During my 1996 campaign for the Senate, I ran on the proposition that there is a fundamental right to privacy in America. I said that if you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get one. 

I became the first member of the Senate to openly support marriage equality. Shortly afterward, there was a debate on a truly bad law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which I opposed for the same reasons. It was a breach of our country’s fundamental right to privacy. Now the Senate has a chance to rectify that wrong and repeal it. 

I will always go to the mat in defense of our right to privacy in America. The bottom line is that protecting somebody else’s rights does not take anything away from your own. Our country is indisputably stronger when everybody’s rights are protected. 

Some members of the Senate have questioned why we need to pass this bill when marriage equality is the law of the land. The answer is simple. The Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe v Wade, showed that the Senate cannot take any modern legal precedent for granted. With the possible exception of Brown v. Board, no precedent is safe as long as Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito are openly calling for the Court to revisit major rulings. 

It’s not just Thomas and Alito making these arguments in public. These days, many Republicans openly talk about their belief that the Court ruled incorrectly in some of the most significant cases dealing with the expansion and recognition of individual rights in America.

The Obergefell ruling -- marriage equality. 

The Griswold v. Connecticut ruling -- the right of women to use contraception. 

Even the Loving v. Virginia ruling -- the right to interracial marriage. 

Some members of Congress have called all those other legal precedents into question. 

These backward debates are unfolding in Congress, in courts, and in statehouses. The backdrop behind them is a frightening, rising level of hatred and bile spewed at LGBTQ Americans every day. 

The far-right is targeting gay and trans Americans in an effort to scare everybody else into taking away their rights. There’s no question that when leaders participate in ratcheting up anti-gay rhetoric, it spills out into the real world across the country. 

The community of Colorado Springs is still mourning the lives lost in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub a few days before Thanksgiving. Five people were killed, more than a dozen others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. If not for the actions of a few brave individuals including a military veteran, the death toll would have been much higher. 

Passing the Respect for Marriage Act will not end the hateful rhetoric and violence for good. But the Senate has an opportunity -- and an obligation -- to declare with this vote that hate is wrong. That we will stand up and defend the vulnerable. That we will protect the individual rights of ALL Americans from a far-right Supreme Court majority determined to turn the clock back by decades.

There is no place for hate or intolerance in America. So today I’m proud to cast a vote for individual rights, for freedom and equality. I want to thank the members who’ve worked for months to bring this bill to the floor with bipartisan support. And I hope to continue this progress with colleagues on both sides in the months and years ahead. 

I yield the floor. 

Watch a video of Wyden’s floor remarks here.