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Last week, legislation enshrining protections for same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law cleared a key procedural vote in the U.S. Senate. But Iowa’s two Republican senators split their votes on this important civil rights issue.
To her credit, Sen. Joni Ernst voted to allow the measure to move forward. But Sen. Chuck Grassley voted no.
“After hearing directly from Iowans, and closely reviewing the amended language, I believe this bill protects religious freedoms and will simply maintain the status quo in Iowa,” Ernst said in a statement. Iowa has allowed legal same-sex unions for more than 13 years.
Oddly, Grassley opposed the bill because he says it would jeopardize religious freedom, and also because he argues the legislation isn’t necessary.
“To be clear, there is no effort in Congress or the courts to overturn” rulings recognizing interracial marriages or same-sex marriages, Grassley said in a statement. “I don’t believe the Supreme Court would reverse these cases even if they were challenged, and I don’t believe it is prudent for politicians to imply otherwise in order to fabricate unnecessary discontent in our nation.”
Grassley is wrong in the facts. The Senate amended the bill originally passed by the House to add clear protections for religious objections to same-sex unions by nonprofit religious organizations. As a senator from a state with legal same-sex marriages since 2009, Grassley ought to know that marriage equality has not led to a trampling of religious liberty.
As for any effort to “fabricate discontent,” it’s the radically conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority that Grassley played a key role in building that is prompting concerns about marriage rights.
In a concurring opinion attached to the court’s ruling striking down the constitutional right to an abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas raised the specter that the same legal logic behind the decision could be used to trike at other landmark rulings on individual rights. That includes the 2015 court ruling making legal same-sex marriages the law of the land.
Grassley’s nothing-to-see-here approach to marriage rights is reminiscent of the repeated insistence from conservative judicial nominees that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.” If a 50-year-old abortion precedent can be tossed by the court, what assurances are there that a seven-year-old marriage precedent would be sustained?
Grassley, who was just elected to an eighth Senate term, is playing politics with LGBTQ rights for no good reason. The bill is needed, and Grassley should have supported it.
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