Sen. Ron Johnson Cites Religious Protection, Won’t Back Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., will no longer support the same-sex marriage bill that would codify the right to same-sex marriage and increase protection for interracial and LGBT couples, citing issues with religious liberty. 

Johnson had previously signaled he was open to possibly supporting such legislation, saying he had “no reason to oppose the bill,” but made his ultimate decision known while speaking at a public event in Wisconsin. He told voters he could not support the Respect for Marriage Act “in its current state.”

“I said, ‘at this point; I don’t see a reason to oppose it,’ to get [media] off my back…I wouldn’t support it in its current state. … I’m not happy with the Baldwins of the world opening that wound,” said Johnson, when referring to Senator Tammy Baldwin.

“You have to understand the process here. You’re walking down the subway in the Capitol, and all of a sudden you get descended [upon] by national press,” Johnson said at the meeting. “…You just get hounded on this crap, right? So, just to get ’em off my backs, I wrote a press release. And I said I always supported civil unions, never felt that we needed to do anything other than that, but then the Supreme Court ruled [on abortion], and I just considered the matter settled.”

The senator said he and Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, were working together to craft a “just smokin’ amendment” that would protect liberties. “We’ll see where it goes from there,” Johnson said. “…But at the same time, I don’t to see millions of lives disrupted either. To me, that was a ruling that was healed. Let it go, okay? Move on, okay? We’ve got enough problems.”

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, have been hard at work trying to get 10 GOP senators on board supporting the bill, which they argue most Americans support.

Senator Baldwin stresses the importance of the bill

When asked about Johnson’s comments, Baldwin stressed the bill’s importance. “The Supreme Court overthrowing Roe v. Wade has brought into questioning the same legal reasoning that has been used in Loving v. Virginia and marriage equality. People in real marriages are feeling a great deal of uncertainty right now, and that’s why we want to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.”

Johnson’s office has accused Democrats of fearmongering over an issue that is “settled.” He dismissed a question from reporters about disrupted lives after Roe v. Wade was overturned. “Seems like you can still get abortions all over the place,” he said.

The Respect for Marriage Act would require individuals to be considered married in all states as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it occurred. The act would also repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one woman and one man and allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Despite being declared unconstitutional by the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling the law has remained on the books. 

The bill also prohibits states from not recognizing a marriage and protects interracial marriages “on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.”

“Individuals in same-sex and interracial marriages need, and should have, the confidence that their marriages are legal,” Collins and Baldwin wrote in a joint op-ed for the Washington Post. “We all have family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors who are in these marriages. These partnerships deserve fairness and the recognition, stability, and rights of marriage. They are an accepted part of American life.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced that a vote on the bill will take place in the upcoming weeks.