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

Portman joins the nearly 50 House Republicans in supporting Democratic bill
June 26 a historic day for LGBTQ rights
Posted at 6:31 PM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 22:45:18-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. House passed a bill protecting marriage equality Tuesday evening, with Ohio Republicans split among those voting for it and those voting against it. Although it was in the House, Republican Senator Rob Portman made his stance in support of the bill very clear — cosponsoring the companion bill in the Senate.

The Respect for Marriage Actwould 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.

Tuesday's vote comes 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.

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.

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. Of the 12 Republican representatives from Ohio, four votes yes and eight voted no.

Northeast Ohio Congressman Dave Joyce, from Chagrin Falls, ended up having too much on his plate for an interview, but told News 5 he was voting yes. As he said, he voted yes.

Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, from Rocky River; Mike Carey, from Columbus; Michael Turner, from Dayton; all joined Joyce in voting yes.

Reps. Brad Wenstrup, from the Cincinnati-area; Steve Chabot, from the Cincinnati-area; Troy Balderson, from Zanesville; Warren Davidson, from Troy; Bob Gibbs, from Lakeville; Bill Johnson, from Marietta; Robert Latta, from Bowling Green and Jim Jordan, from Urbana, all voted no.

Congressman Jordan had been outspoken on the floor about not repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.

"I hope we can defeat it and I hope it doesn't pass," Jordan said. "It is unnecessary and wrong."

The representative, who is currently defying the Jan. 6 select committee's subpoena, who recently accused a 10-year-old girl of lying about being raped and having to travel out of state to have an abortion spoke repeatedly about how this act is unfair to states who never updated their marriage equality laws after the Supreme Court ruling.

"This legislation would, in fact, codify the law, but what it would also do is reverse the law in 35 states where those states have said marriage should be what — a traditional marriage," the congressman and former wrestling coach said.

The very decision that democrats say creates the threat against marriage equality explicitly denied it, Jordan added.

"Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion," the Dobbs majority opinion states.

Democrats have argued that how can anyone trust the word of the Court when the justices don't always tell the truth.

"We can’t trust a far-right Supreme Court not to come after marriage equality next," Congressman and U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Tim Ryan said. "That's why Congress must pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which ensures interracial and same-sex marriage will continue to be recognized."

The House was never the concern when getting this bill passed. The Senate is where it could get stuck.

It is expected that every Democratic senator will vote yes, but with the filibuster, it may be hard to push past.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, was the first Republican senator to share his support for same-sex marriage in 2013 after his son came out as gay.

"From the lens of a father, you know, I'm pleased about it," Portman told News 5 in 2015.

His team told News 5 he still supports marriage equality and guided us towards statements he made more than half a decade ago.

"The issue of marriage equality is one that divides people of principle, and I understand that," the statement said. "In 2013, I decided to support marriage equality after I came to understand this issue better in the context of my own family. I can't help but view today's Supreme Court decision through that same lens."

However, before Portman’s team reached out to News 5 to share he was cosponsoring the bill, this statement raised doubts on if he would vote to protect it.

“I did believe that this was better handled by the state,” Portman told News 5 in 2015. “My preference would have been that, here in Ohio, we would have had a vote on it and allow people to decide I think that would have made for more enduring change.”

Portman's team did assert that Thomas was alone in his suggestion to reevaluate marriage equality, so it seems as though he isn't worried of the case being overturned.

UPDATE: After our story aired, Portman's team reached out to share that the senator would be cosponsoring the bill — making him the second confirmed GOP senator to push back against the filibuster. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, is a primary sponsor of the bill.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.