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Ohio's Sen. Rob Portman worries Senate doesn't have the votes for marriage equality act

NEW ALBANY, OH — SEPTEMBER 09: U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for Intel’s new semiconductor manufacturing site, September 9, 2022, in Licking County, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal / Republish photo only with original story)
Posted at 10:49 AM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 10:49:36-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) fears the marriage equality act he is cosponsoring doesn't have the votes to pass the Senate.

The U.S. House passed a bill protecting marriage equality in July. Although it was in the House, Portman made his stance in support of the bill very clear by cosponsoring the companion bill in the Senate.

The Respect for Marriage Act would make sure that every legal marriage would be considered legitimate and would prohibit any state from discriminating against same-sex couples married in other states.

The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which only recognized marriages between one man and one woman. This federal law from the 1990s was struck down after the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. The court ruled that same-sex couples in the U.S. have the same right to marry as different-sex couples.

"I will tell you honestly, we don't know whether we have the votes or not," Portman told News 5 on Friday.

The House voted 267-157 to pass the act. There were 47 Republicans who voted with the Democrats and several members of the GOP didn't vote.

Portman would need nine other GOP senators to join him. There are already a few others, including primary sponsor Susan Collins (R-Maine). Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has changed his position and will not support the bill in its current state, according to The Hill.

"I think it makes sense because it has Congress actually writing legislation that confirms the status quo," Portman said. "It doesn't change anything, doesn't create more rights."

The House proposed this legislation amid concern other rights may be in jeopardy after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, ending protections for abortion.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that SCOTUS should also reconsider landmark cases such as the right to marry someone or engage in private sex acts with someone of the same sex. In addition, he also suggested looking into birth control decisions.

View our previous reporting on Sen. Portman's co-sponsorship of the bill:

U.S. House votes to protect marriage equality, Ohio GOP split

RELATED: Sen. Rob Portman cosponsors marriage equality act, Ohio GOP splits on issue

NEW ALBANY, OH — SEPTEMBER 09: U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for Intel’s new semiconductor manufacturing site, September 9, 2022, in Licking County, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal / Republish photo only with original story)
NEW ALBANY, OH — SEPTEMBER 09: U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for Intel’s new semiconductor manufacturing site, September 9, 2022, in Licking County, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal / Republish photo only with original story)

If the Supreme Court was to overrule Obergefell, Democrats are worried that the Defense of Marriage Act could go back into place for the states that hadn't already legalized same-sex marriage. This act would also make sure interracial marriages were kept legal, as well.

"It just says, you know, this is not something that judges should decide," Portman added. "It's something that elected representatives should decide. And it also will offer some additional protections on religious liberty, which is very important."

Portman was the first Republican senator to share his support for same-sex marriage in 2013 after his son came out as gay. However, he has come under fire for supporting lawmakers or judges who are anti-marriage equality or have made negative statements about same-sex marriage.

"I think in the end, we can get it done because it is about putting the status quo into law and providing additional protections on religious liberty," the Republican said.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.