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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The idea of a law to ensure that same-sex and mixed-sex couples have a right to obtain a marriage license is gaining momentum.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) is one of several Republicans who on Wednesday voiced possible support for a bill passed Tuesday with bipartisan support in the House that would codify those rights.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C., center) speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 9. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Tillis (R-North Carolina) told CNN that he “probably will” vote for a same-sex marriage bill when it arrives in the Senate.

There would need to be at least 10 Republicans to agree to allow its passage without a filibuster, and others – including Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) – were speaking favorably about the bill. Some said they expect the required 60 Senators to support it, CNN reported.

This bill – and actions in the House about abortion rights and access to contraception – emerged because of the recent Supreme Court rulings that stripped abortion rights protected by Roe v. Wade and the perceived threats in an opinion by Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

Thomas in his concurrence with the decision about Roe suggested that the court should review decisions that authorized same-sex marriage and a woman’s access to contraception.

On Tuesday the House passed a bill that would recognize such unions on a federal level.

House votes

There were 47 Republicans who voted in support of that bill, but none of those representing North Carolina did so. Spokespersons for 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord), who is running in the 9th District that includes Randolph County, did not respond to emails requesting an explanation of the candidates’ positions, specifically for non-political comments that focused on the core issue.

U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), who this November is running in the 8th District that includes Davidson and Montgomery counties, issued a statement that largely blamed Democrats and politics for the bill.

“This bill is an attack on Americans who hold the view that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Bishop said, “continuing a long trend of Democrats’ attacks on conservative and religious Americans, whom they view as ‘deplorables.’”

Changing views

A Gallup poll from 2021 found that about 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage, which the Supreme Court reinforced in 2015 (with Thomas on the court) in Obergefell v. Hodges. Gallup said that support was up from about 27% in 1996. The 2021 poll also showed that 55% of Republicans supported the idea.

Tillis’ position on the issue would appear ironic given that in 2012 he was speaker of the house in North Carolina when Amendment One, which would constitutionally banned same-sex marriage. A federal judge later overturned the law and the Supreme Court’s decision rendered it moot.

Richard Burr (Courtesy of US Congress)
Richard Burr (Courtesy of US Congress)

Other influential GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Utah’s Mitt Romney, expressed a watchful approach to legislation. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has a gay son, is co-sponsoring the bill.

Politico said North Carolina’s other senator, Richard Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem who is retiring this year, also was noncommittal.

CNN said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she would like to address all the issues raised by Thomas.

“I have suggested to others that not only would I like to see Roe, Casey, and Griswold on contraception codified but I’ve also made clear my support for, for gay marriage years ago,” Murkowski told CNN. “So I will look at what the House is doing and see what that might mean here on the Senate side.”