Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler suggested on Tuesday that Justice Clarence Thomas did not suggest revisiting the Supreme Court ruling that legalized interracial marriage because he himself is married to a white woman.
Debate on the House floor grew heated as the Democrat-majority chamber prepares to advance its Respect For Marriage Act, aimed at codifying same-sex marriage.
The bill is a response to Thomas’ concurring opinion in the high court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which saw the right to an abortion stripped out of federal law and returned to state jurisdictions.
While Justice Samuel Alito made clear in the main opinion that he was solely focused on abortion, Thomas set off alarm bells within the progressive community by suggesting the court could next revisit the landmark cases that legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex intimacy and the right for married couples to have contraception.
Nadler noted on Tuesday that Thomas ‘didn’t mention Loving though, for some reason – which is interracial marriage,’ in reference to the 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia.
‘Maybe the fact that he’s intermarried, and so is Senator McConnell,’ Nadler said. ‘Maybe that has something to do with it.’
It’s not clear what prompted him to bring McConnell into the conversation. The Kentucky Republican is married to Elaine Chao, a Chinese-American immigrant who served as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Transportation.
Lawmakers are working to enshrine a slate of privacy rights into federal law after the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections granted by Roe v. Wade with their ruling in Dobbs.
New York Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler dismissed Republican arguments against the Respect For Marriage Act as ‘nonsense’
Democrat leaders were forced on the back foot by their furious base for failing to codify abortion rights in the 50 years that Roe stood at precedent.
But the seismic late June ruling prompted them to act swiftly to preserve the protections that Thomas dangled over the chopping block, starting with same-sex marriage.
The Respect For Marriage Act would repeal the controversial Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The law was gutted by the Supreme Court but remains on the books – meaning it could be enforceable again if the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is overturned.
It also recognizes any legally performed marriage under federal law and explicitly prohibits ‘denying full faith and credit to an out of state marriage’ in a bid to preemptively block state legislatures from rolling back protections on same-sex and interracial unions.
Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana accused Democrats of ‘fear mongering’ with the bill.
‘This is a a partisan bill, to make partisan arguments, to run ads in an election cycle,’ Johnson said.
In criticizing Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health on Tuesday, Nadler noted on that Thomas ‘didn’t mention Loving though, for some reason – which is interracial marriage.’ He is married to conservative activist Ginni Thomas, who is white
He pointed to Alito’s main opinion in the Dobbs case, which specifies that the conservative majority’s decision relates to abortion only. Thomas reaffirms this in his concurring opinion, as well – before using that to suggest looking at other cases in order to re-examine those precedents separately.
But Johnson insisted that the right to same-sex marriage was not under attack and that Democrats were ‘manufacturing’ the issue
‘This crisis, this demeaning, divisive debate – trying to reopen a Pandora’s box that no one has opened except the Democrats. This is crystal clear,’ he opined.
Nadler dismissed his argument as ‘nonsense.’
Seemingly unprompted, Nadler also brought up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who immigrated to the US from Taiwan at the age of 8 and was most recently in government as Trump’s Transportation Secretary
He also called out the Louisiana Republican for selectively referencing Thomas’ opinion to avoid his reference to other landmark cases.
‘The substantive due process logic, by which the court overthrew Roe v Wade, applies equally to Obergefell, to Loving, to Lawrence – in other words, to the right to contraception, to the right to gay marriage; to the right to interracial marriage, for that matter,’ Nadler said.
‘And Justice Thomas mentioned all that specifically. Yes, he said “This case doesn’t involve that, we’re not deciding that yet.” Which is what the portion of his concurrence that Mr. Johnson read. But read the rest of his concurrence.’
But Republicans appear to be taking Thomas’ opinion as a signal to further push societal boundaries.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz said during a recent episode of his podcast that Obergefell was ‘clearly wrong.’
Meanwhile, Indiana GOP Senator Mike Braun apparently agreed with the suggestion he’d be ‘okay with the Supreme Court leaving the question of interracial marriage to the states,’ according to a journalist at The Young Turks.
GOP Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan told DailyMail.com that Democrats are not focusing on ‘things that matter.’
‘At a time when inflation is at 9.1% and the southern border is in a full-blown crisis, Democrats in Congress are wasting time on a bill about marriage. Is that really the most pressing issue facing our country?’ McClain said.
‘How about we focus on things that matter, like lowering gas costs rather than voting on pointless bills that only score political points.’
The House is set to vote on the bill later on Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shredded the Supreme Court in her own remarks on the chamber floor.
‘We are here because, just three weeks ago, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade: ripping away a woman’s freedom over her most intimate health decisions,’ Pelosi said.
‘These radical Justices took a wrecking ball to precedent of the Court and privacy in the Constitution – and placed even more of our cherished freedoms on the chopping block.’