The same-sex marriage bill is a half-measure worth taking

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21-year-old Hillary Diane Rodham stood in her graduation gown, ready to make history that May 1969 morning at Wellesley College, but first she would answer the Republican senator who had spoken just before her. As the first Wellesley student to be given the privilege of addressing her graduating class, she felt compelled to respond to his message of pragmatism.

“We had a lot of empathy; we had a lot of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have seen politics as the art of the possible,” the future Hillary Clinton said in an apartment, Midwest accent. “And the challenge now is to practice politics as an art of doing.” which seems impossible possible.”

Affect and tone are equally unrecognizable in the modern mythology to the future Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady. But this practical embrace of the art of the possible would become a hallmark of her political career — and one that her fellow Democrats embraced this week when the Senate approved its first procedural vote on a bill designed to protect some of the marriage rights now granted to same-sex and interracial couples in the event that the Supreme Court is trying to remove them.

The 50-member Senate Democratic caucus, with the support of 12 Republicans, moved on Wednesday to pass a modified version of the Respect for Marriage Act, which the House embraced back in June. Final passage of the bill in the Senate could come as soon as Friday.

Still, the legislators are stopping well short of the codification of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that extended marriage rights to all couples. Instead, Congress is moving quickly to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which would go back into effect if the Supreme Court reverses its 2015 decision. Obergefell governing. In its place, the Respect for Marriage Act directs states to honor marriage licenses, adoption orders, and divorce decrees issued in other states. It also gives a buffer to earlier rulings that allowed interracial couples to marry and same-sex couples to do whatever they want behind the closed doors of their bedrooms.

In other words, Alabama would have to honor a marriage that takes place in New York, but Alabama itself would not have to issue that same-sex or interracial couple its own marriage license. At least 24 other countries would fit into this category. And nationally, the Respect for Marriage Act would roll back more than 1,000 federal benefits that the Defense of Marriage Act denies to same-sex couples, such as Social Security benefits for survivors and spousal citizenship applications.

Republicans extracted concessions from Democrats in exchange for Senate votes, and Democratic negotiators decided that the least of the guaranteed protections was better than a return to none at all. Obergefell fall.

Not coincidentally, the Senate finally moved on the issue after the Nov. 8 election that handed control of the House to Republicans in January. The window for Democrats in both chambers to get much of anything done is quickly narrowing. The fact that Democrats prioritized it says as much about their fears as it does about their political coalition and donors.

But fears of overstepping forced Senate Democrats to give back even more, including provisions that address some Republicans’ concerns that the measure could infringe on the religious liberties of some individuals and groups. The proposal also does not regulate businesses, meaning shop owners could deny same-sex couples the use of venues for weddings, cake sales or apartment rentals. By the time the concessions were finalized, even leaders of the Mormon faith had done so approved this iteration of the art of the possible.

Washington has been laying the groundwork for that outcome since the summer after the Supreme Court overturned a half-century of protections for abortion rights granted in Roe v. Wade governing. Although the majority wrote that the rulers in Dobbs decision was limited to abortion rights, a minority opinion written by Clarence Thomas suggests that rejecting the framework in Rowe meant that other decisions—such as same-sex and interracial marriage, contraception, and privacy—could also be revisited.

Democrats knew they had to act fast. Although surprisingly 47 Republicans maintained the House version, there’s no guarantee that a Republican-led chamber next year will allow such a bill to even make it to the floor, and there’s no telling what the White House will look like in 2025. the bill, but that was because they knew it would pass the Democratic-controlled House with or without them. Democrats took a cold look at what was possible and chose what they could get now rather than risk changing their minds in just a few weeks.

Washington is a city of such compromise. The progressives did not love the last incarnation of Obamacare, but went with what could get it across the finish line. The Conservatives had questions with the Trump-Bush era tax cuts, but embraced victory. The Democrats didn’t fall in love with Joe Biden as their candidate, but they strategized bet he can beat Donald Trump. These compromises are part of the deal, and the compromise on marriage is just the final chapter. As much as young, bright-eyed Hillary Rodham pushed for a better version of politics than the art of the possible, an older, wiser Hillary Clinton would recognize the merits of this week’s deal. It’s just what adults are supposed to do.

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Write to Philip Eliot c [email protected].

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