The lone Democrat in the U.S. Senate to oppose same-sex marriage is sticking to his views despite efforts among members of Congress in his party to convince the Supreme Court to find a constitutional right to marriage rights for gay couples.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signaled Monday he won’t sign a friend-of-the-court brief being prepared by congressional Democrats in favor of same-sex marriage. That brief, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is organizing on the Senate side, is due Friday.
Asked by the Washington Blade if Manchin would announce support for marriage equality and add his name to the brief, Jonathan Kott, a Manchin spokesperson, replied, “No. His position has not changed.”
Now that former Sens. Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu have been voted out of office, Manchin is the only Senate Democrat to remain opposed to same-sex marriage. He’s designated as an opponent of gay nuptials on the Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard, which cites a 2012 statement from a spokesperson saying Manchin believes marriage is between one man and one woman.
Although many Americans, including U.S. senators like Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have since come to support marriage equality, Manchin hasn’t changed his view.
On the night of the 2014 State of the Union address, Manchin declined to comment when asked by the Blade on Capitol Hill whether he agrees with President Obama’s remarks that same-sex marriage is a “civil right” and a “story of freedom,” saying he didn’t recall hearing Obama say that in his speech.
By opposing same-sex marriage and refusing to support a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, Manchin is line with conservative senators like Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who attacked “unelected judges” at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference for overturning state marriage laws, or Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who said on stage he thinks marriage is between one man and one woman.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said that even Democrats have work ahead of them in building support for marriage equality.
“Republicans apparently aren’t the only ones who need to get their ranks on the right side of history,” Angelo said.
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, had little to say about Manchin’s continued opposition to same-sex marriage. Asked whether he had a reaction, he said, “Honestly, not really.”
The Human Rights Campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on Manchin’s continued opposition to same-sex marriage and refusal to sign congressional Democrats’ brief.
Manchin continues to oppose to same-sex marriage even though his state is among 37 in the country to have marriage equality. State officials agreed to let same-sex couples marry after the Supreme Court refused to review a decision in favor of marriage equality from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over West Virginia.
This week, the time period before friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of marriage equality are due before the Supreme Court, is arguably the last opportunity to voice support for same-sex marriage and make a difference.
The Democratic Party has made an endorsement of same-sex marriage part of its 2012 national political platform. The document says, “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”
The Democratic National Committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Manchin damages the Democratic Party’s brand by continuing to oppose same-sex marriage.
In addition to opposing same-sex marriage, Manchin also has the distinction of being the lone sitting Senate Democrat to take a pass on the vote that repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010. The senator later said his absence from that vote was the “wrong” course of action. In 2013, Manchin joined the entire Democratic caucus in voting in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.