Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin was on the Senate floor, but her mind was on the other side of the Capitol.
The House was voting that July afternoon on Democratic legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal right to an abortion. And it was suddenly winning more Republican votes than Baldwin — or anyone else — had expected.
Baldwin, who became the first openly gay senator when she was elected a decade ago, said she was “overjoyed” as she saw the votes coming in. She excitedly walked over to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who was also on the Senate floor and had been one of the first Republican senators to come out in favor of same-sex marriage.
“Did you see this?” Baldwin asked, showing Portman a list of Republicans who had voted for the House bill — almost four dozen.
Portman, who had worked with her on the issue in the past, was immediately on board. “Count me in,” he told her.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, December 9, 2022. The Respect for Marriage Act passes the House, protests return to Iraq, and much more.
Yesterday, the House of Representative passed The Respect for Marriage Act. US President Joe Biden released the following statement:
Today, Congress took a critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love. The House’s bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act—by a significant margin—will give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples who are now guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled.
After the uncertainty caused by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Congress has restored a measure of security to millions of marriages and families. They have also provided hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they build.
I want to once again thank the unwavering champions of this legislation in Congress—Representatives Nadler, Cicilline, and Davids in the House, and Senators Baldwin, Collins, Portman, Sinema, Tillis, and Feinstein in the Senate—who refused to be deterred and brought this vital bill over the finish line. Together, we showed that it’s possible for Democrats and Republicans to come together to safeguard our most fundamental rights.
On this day, Jill and I are thinking of the courageous couples and fiercely committed advocates who have fought for decades to secure nationwide marriage equality at the Supreme Court and in Congress. While we are one step closer on our long journey to build a more perfect union, we must never stop fighting for full equality for LGBTQI+ Americans and all Americans.
The House of Representatives has passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) in a 258-169 vote. The bill would require the federal government and state governments to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed by other states.
The bill originally passed the House in July and was then passed by the Senate on November 29. The Senate amended the bill to add some religious protections and to state that it doesn’t legalize polygamy, so the House had to pass it again with the amendment.
The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.
The historic moment also had a heavy helping of spectacle thanks to Drama Queen Vicky Jo Hartzler. The outgoing Republican Congress person burst into tears on the House floor, looking very butch in her cheap, faux leather jacket, as she growled that marriage equality was wrong. Trudy Ring (THE ADVOCATE) reports:
She has a long anti-LGBTQ+ record. Back in 2011, in her first term in the U.S. House, she told a gay student who questioned her at a town meeting in Missouri that he shouldn’t worry about bans on same-sex marriage. When Missouri amended its state constitution to include such a ban in 2004, it was merely maintaining the status quo, she said.
The student also asked Hartzler about a comment she had made warning that letting same-sex couples marry would be like letting 3-year-olds drive cars. She insisted that the remark, which was recorded on video, “was really taken out of context.”
More recently, she has targeted transgender people. In July 2017, shortly before Donald Trump announced his trans military ban, she proposed an amendment to a defense spending bill that would prevent the government from funding transition-related health care for troops. It was narrowly rejected by the House, with more than 20 Republicans voting against it. Earlier, she had proposed another amendment, this one to reverse the Obama administration’s lifting of the ban on trans troops, but withdrew it while making a plea to Defense Secretary James Mattis “to take the steps to restore readiness and make sure we don’t waste precious tax dollars” — in other words, reinstate the ban. She also voiced concern about cisgender military members showering with trans people.
Poor Vicky Jo, she has closet case written all over her. Maybe now that she's out of Congress, she can get honest with herself. She's a supporter of conversion therapy. Apparently because it worked for her and her husband.
Also bitter was US House Rep Marjorie Taylor-Green who insisted, "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that's how God created it." That's how God created it, Marjie? And how is your divorce attorney modifying it? It's cute how she wants to claim she's basing her life on the Bible in the middle of her divorce that her fundamental religious beliefs can't back up.
Senators congratulated their House colleagues on the vote. Senator Tammy Baldwin's office issued the following statement:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) released the following statement on the Respect for Marriage Act passing the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 258-169:
“We are thrilled that the Respect for Marriage Act passed both the Senate and the House with robust bipartisan support. This commonsense legislation provides certainty to millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages, who will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages. At the same time, our legislation fully respects and protects religious liberty and diverse beliefs about marriage. This is an important and historic step forward in ensuring dignity and respect for all Americans.”
Among those voting for the measure were US House Rep Mark Takano. His office issued the following:
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) released this statement following the House passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. This bill repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, enshrines marriage equality for federal law purposes and provides additional marriage protections at the state level.?The Respect for Marriage act now goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“As the first openly gay Member of color elected in history, enactment of the Respect for Marriage Act means the world to me, to my loved ones, and to millions of Americans,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “Yet we cannot rest— the necessity of this legislation in response to extreme Supreme Court action is a stark call for our vigilance in the fight for human rights. We must rise to the challenge, and we will prevail.”
Taylor Doggett (202) 225-2305
For many on Capitol Hill, the marriage bill was just another item on a busy “lame duck” smorgasbord that included legislation to fund the Pentagon, among other high-profile items. With control of the House changing hands next month, many Capitol Hill regulars were more focused on the upcoming change of power than today’s attempt to codify marriage equality into federal law.
But for at least one member of Congress, today’s marriage equality vote was more than just a juicy footnote on an otherwise busy day.
Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) represents a South Jersey district in the Philly burbs. An electrician by trade, he’s also the proud father of a gay daughter. His floor speech during the first vote was remarkable for all the right reasons.
“We’re gonna get it right and get it finished most importantly,” Norcross told LGBTQ Nation before the vote, explaining the need for a second vote. “The Senate had their view on it and we passed our version here in the House and there were some language changes that had to do with religious freedoms and there was consensus to come together. We thought it was extremely important so it’s back here under the Senate version that they voted on so we pass it today, it goes right down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House for the president’s signature.”
Historic? Yes! But on a hectic and uncommonly warm day on Capitol Hill, it might be hard to stop and smell the roses.
“I don’t know that I’ll smell the roses today but I’m sure after the vote, I’ll call my daughter,” Norcross said. “And every day that I speak to my daughter and daughter-in-law and every morning that I get a pic of my grandson, it’ll remind me that the nation now approves of their love.”
THE NEWSHOUR (PBS) reported on the vote.
Lawmakers from both chambers came together to cheer final passage of the bill, the Respect for Marriage Act. Today's move comes after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas expressed interest in reconsidering the Supreme Court decision that protects marriage equality following the High Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June.
Looking at all of this closely is Kate Sosin, who reports on LGBTQ+ issues for The 19th News.
Kate, how significant is this bill?
Kate Sosin, The 19th News: This bill, a lot of people are reporting that this protects marriage equality, and, in some ways, it does. But it doesn't codify marriage equality the way that we know it.
What that means, basically, is, this would make marriages transportable from state to state for states that do have pro-marriage laws on the books. But for states that have bans, you still could not get married in those states.
And that's to say, if, in fact, the Supreme Court does take the step of overturning Obergefell and changing kind of national law, this really would just make it a state-by-state situation.
Republicans were key in passing this law, but most of them voted no, many of them saying because they were worried about religious liberties. What are their arguments? And what does the bill say about that?
The Republican talking points about religious liberty are — tend to be that there's a worry that churches will be forced to perform same-sex unions.
There are religious freedom protections in this bill. They mirror the protections that already exist. So, a church or a nonprofit that is set up for religious worship would not have to perform those unions.
However, if you do have a nonprofit or a business that is set up and wants to do business or is accepting government funds, for example, a charity that takes money and is doing adoption services, it would probably be still subject to state laws. So, there's not new law that is created by this in terms of nondiscrimination law.
But it's to say some of those nonprofits may have to recognize an out-of-state same-sex union if they want state funds?
But that's still not different from the law that we are living under right now, because we have marriage equality nationwide.
Turning to Iraq, RUDAW reports:
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani on Friday stated that
combating corruption is among the priorities of his government, calling
it the main reason for the state’s reluctance to conduct its duties.
On the International Anti-Corruption Day, the Iraqi premier reiterated his cabinet’s commitment to battling the endemic corruption that plagues all levels of the Iraqi state, a day after the second batch was retrieved from the $2.5 billion stolen in tax funds.
“No economic or service effort can achieve what is required without there being serious work to confront this scourge, recover the looted funds, and pursue the wanted,” read a tweet from Sudani on Friday.
Mohammed says ending corruption is one of his priorities? They all have said that -- going back to Nouri al-Maliki. None has won the battle. The previous prime minister also promised he'd bring to justice the killers of the protesters, remember that? He didn't do a damn thing. Let's again note Human Rights Watch's release:
The Iraqi government under former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi failed to deliver on promises of legal accountability for state security personnel and state-backed armed groups responsible for killing, maiming, and disappearing hundreds of demonstrators and activists since 2019, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 40-page report, “To Sleep the Law: Violence Against Protesters and Unaccountable Perpetrators in Iraq,” details specific cases of killing, injury, and disappearance of protesters during and after the 2019-2020 popular uprising in central and southern Iraq. Al-Kadhimi took power in May 2020 promising justice for the murders and disappearances, but when he left office in October 2022, his government had made no concrete progress on holding those responsible to account.
“After two and a half years with al-Khadimi in power, his promises of justice for vicious violence against peaceful protesters turned out to be empty, and killers are walking free,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Protesters sacrificed so much to improve conditions in the country, even giving their lives, but their government couldn’t even provide them the bare minimum of justice in return.”
Nearly 500 demonstrators were killed in just the first few weeks of the uprising by Iraqi security forces and state-backed armed groups, according to the United Nations. Violence against protesters persisted even after protests ended, through a targeted assassination campaign against prominent activists, most of whom were perceived as influential voices in the protest movement.
Six months after taking office, former Prime Minister al-Kadhimi established a Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the violence carried out by state security personnel and armed groups against protesters and activists. But the committee has yet to release any substantial information about its findings, not even disclosing the cases it examined, much less the results of investigations it carried out.
Human Rights Watch examined the cases of 11 Iraqis subjected to violence because of political protest and activism. Five of them were killed, including two women. Another five were injured, and one was kidnapped and disappeared.
The victims and the families of those killed or disappeared filed legal cases with police and judicial authorities, but after initial interest from the authorities, such as police collecting details of these cases, the legal complaints went nowhere. There was virtually no follow up from the authorities about the status of their investigations or attempts to identify and hold those responsible to account.
As some interviewees insisted, their cases were simply “put to sleep.”
Emjad al-Dehemat, 56, was a prominent activist in Amara, the capital of Maysan province in southeast Iraq. On November 6, 2019, weeks into the protests, al-Dehemat was assassinated after leaving a meeting with a senior police commander in Amara’s main police station, said other activists who also attended the meeting. The killing occurred only a few hundred meters from police headquarters.
His brother Ali al-Dehemat, 52, filed a legal case with the authorities with little result. No arrests have been made in the case. Fighting for justice for his brother, Ali received death threats and was forced to flee Amara, moving from city to city for fear that he, too, would be killed.
Despite the lack of progress in investigations and legal accountability, the Iraqi government has financially compensated most of the families of those killed. According to the UN, most of the families of protesters killed have received financial compensation from Iraq’s Martyrs Foundation, a state entity.
The government also promised to compensate the thousands of protesters maimed or injured during the protests. But only a small number of victims have received compensation for their injuries, and they have only done so after long waits – in some cases up to two-and-a-half years – and at great financial cost. Many have hired lawyers to help with their claims, and some said they had to pay bribes to officials to resolve their claims.
The new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani should release information about the Fact-Finding Committee’s investigations into the killings, injuries, and disappearances of demonstrators during and after the uprising. The government should also urge judicial authorities to release information about the status of ongoing investigations and cases.
Al-Sudani’s government should also redouble efforts to compensate victims of the violence, including by establishing a clear and concise compensation policy for those injured, and laying out straightforward steps that minimize bureaucratic hurdles to receiving compensation.
“The 2019-2020 uprising brought down a government and instigated early elections, and the protesters demanded accountability for perpetrators of the violence they suffered,” Coogle said. “The new prime minister can and should work to deliver the justice his predecessor did not.”
Protests have returned to Iraq. Qassim Abdul Zahra and Abby Sewell (AP) report:
At least two protesters were killed Wednesday in southern Iraq after security forces opened fire on a crowd demonstrating against a harsh prison sentence handed down against a young Iraqi activist over a Twitter post, local officials said.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the city of Nasiriyah against a court ruling this week sentencing Hayder Hamid al-Zaidi, 20, to three years in prison over alleged criticism of state-sanctioned militias.
Security forces opened fire to disperse the protesters, killing two and injuring 17, according to a high ranking local government source and a medical source, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media about the matter.
The occurrence of a number of casualties and injuries among the demonstrators prompted Prime Minister Muhammad al-Sudani to discuss the rapid developments in an urgent meeting with the Ministerial Council for National Security, in which he discussed the events of the demonstrations and “decided to send a higher security committee to Dhi Qar Governorate to investigate the events that caused casualties and injuries.” between the ranks of the demonstrators and the security services »; According to a statement issued by the meeting.
The Council stressed “the need to preserve the lives of peaceful demonstrators, and to prevent any party from intervening by politicizing the demonstrations or exploiting them for personal purposes.”
The Minister of Interior, Abd al-Amir al-Shammari, directed the replacement of the Dhi Qar police chief, following the losses that occurred during the demonstrations.
The following sites updated: