Fellow Republicans, make same-sex marriage the law of the land

As recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, we both recognize the observation of G.K. Chesterton, who saw family as the ultimate test of freedom because, as he so artfully said, “family is the only thing man makes for himself and by himself.”

In the seven-year period between today and the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that recognized marriage equality, more than 1 million gay and lesbian Americans have exercised their freedom by marrying and forming families.

The ability to marry, raise a family and build a life with the person you love is one of the most fundamental rights that exists. Families are the mainspring of love and happiness in our lives. As Republicans, we recognize that the freedom to marry is not just consistent with, but also advances, conservative ideals and honored American traditions. With our emphasis on the importance of stable families to a stable society, and on government restraint in our personal affairs, Republicans should support the present status quo millions of families and loving couples in every state across America have come to rely upon.

Alternatively, no American should begrudge anyone’s pursuit of happiness so long as that pursuit does not interfere with another’s exercise of their freedom. That is especially so in a decision so central to human happiness as is the decision of whom to build a home and make a family with.

It’s encouraging that an actively growing majority of people believe this to be true. Nearly three-quarters of Americans support the rights of gays and lesbians to wed, including a majority of Republicans. And most also believe the rights afforded same-sex couples, and indeed all Americans, to be settled in our political affairs.

But now, in the wake of the Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, the issue of same-sex marriage is again at the forefront of legal and political debate despite its widespread acceptance in our society. In his concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court should reconsider the precedent established in the Obergefell decision, which formally recognized same-sex marriages as providing “equal dignity in the eye of the law” for all Americans.

While the majority has indicated Dobbs does not affect other precedents, it is no guarantee that future courts, legislatures or attorneys general would not attempt to challenge or diminish the protections afforded to same sex couples under Obergefell. This would deny the right of some Americans to the joys and responsibilities and stability of married and family life.

Would Republicans really countenance the courts breaking up marriages entered into in good faith and the hope of finding happiness? Congress, and more specifically the U.S. Senate, now have the opportunity to put this issue to rest once and for all by passing the Respect for Marriage Act and codifying the freedom to marry into law. This bill recognizes the American people’s wide acceptance of same-sex marriage as a settled issue and the fairness and social value of their legality.

The Respect for Marriage Act has already passed the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support, with 47 Republicans from across the U.S. joining Democrats in supporting it. It now awaits action by the Senate. It will need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome parliamentary hurdles and be sent to the president for his signature.

We strongly encourage all Senate Republicans to join their colleagues, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), in supporting this just, wise and necessary effort to represent popular will and protect the values that form the foundation of strong societies. We call on all freedom-loving Republicans to treat other families as you would want yours to be treated, and to protect the freedom of all Americans to pursue happiness within the honored traditions of loving marriages and stable families.

Alan K. Simpson is a former U.S. Senator from Wyoming. 

Nancy G. Brinker was former ambassador to Hungary and founder of Susan G. Komen and the Promise Fund of Florida.

Both Simpson and Brinker are past recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Tags Clarence Thomas Gay Marriage GOP Republicans Same-sex marriage SCOTUS Senate

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