A bill protecting same-sex marriage is headed toward final approval in Congress.

At any time before the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, that would be cause for celebration. As it stands, it only feels like half an insurance policy.

It’s also an ominous indication of the backlash against LGBTQ rights and of the enduring power of the politics of hate and bigotry.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which has now passed important votes in the House and Senate, would enshrine same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law. Under the bill, states would not be forced to offer same-sex marriage, but would have to recognize any such marriage performed in another state.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins was one of the early supporters of the bill and key to its passage.

It’s important for us to recognize that this legislation is only necessary because of the threat posed to inherent and hard-won rights by the Republican-led Supreme Court, which has already eliminated reproductive rights for tens of millions of Americans. In the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that same-sex marriage was ripe for a legal challenge.


And even then, just 12 Republican senators voted to protect the rights of same-sex couples to marry, and only after the vote was held back until after the election, when they’d be less hindered by political calculations.

Collins, at least, expressed her support before Election Day, and was instrumental in getting the legislation to the finish line.

But that doesn’t get her off the hook. Sen. Collins is as responsible as any senator for the current version of the Supreme Court. She supported the confirmation of justices whose history clearly showed they would be open to taking away rights.

And Collins has continued to be a staunch Republican even as the party has become consumed by hate, conspiracy and grievance, refusing to do much of anything publicly to hold the party to account or change its direction.

In fact, the vote on the Respect for Marriage Act comes after a months-long campaign by conservatives to smear LGBTQ Americans as “groomers” and a danger to society. Gay teachers and drag-queen shows were offered up as among our society’s chief destabilizing problems.

Most people don’t buy that sort of bigotry. But some do.


Following the passage in Florida of the discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” bill, anti-gay rhetoric exploded online.

When hateful rhetoric flourishes, violence and discrimination typically follows, and here is no different. The most terrifying example was the shooting last month at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, but LGBTQ Americans have been targeted in countless other ways as well.

The response to the violence by the right has not been to quiet the rhetoric but to ratchet it up.

And the hate has not been solely targeted to the LGBTQ community. While antisemitism historically has found homes on the right and left, in this moment its most powerful friends are in the Republican Party, from the rank-and-file up to the top.

Former President Donald Trump, the best bet for the Republican nomination in 2024, has always reveled in support from people and groups who openly hate Jews while trying to keep their views at arm’s length. No more: He recently had dinner with some of the most notorious antisemites in the country.

That included rapper Kanye West, who has been made into a conservative media darling for no other reason than his willingness to be openly hateful. Last week, West, now going by Ye, got where he was always going with this, praising Hitler on a radio show before tweeting a picture of a swastika inside a Star of David.

Speaking of Twitter, hate speech has exploded there, too. Elon Musk’s takeover, to the cheers of conservatives, has allowed anti-gay and antisemitic posts to proliferate. We know what comes next.

So while we take comfort in knowing our neighbors in same-sex couples have some protection should the Supreme Court decide to eliminate another constitutional right, we know more must be done to guarantee they can live their lives like everyone else.

As long as the conservative movement remains enthralled by hate, that will be hard to do.

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