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Orrin Hatch dies at 88

Former Utah senator’s LGBTQ rights record was mixed

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Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) died on April 23, 2022, at the age of 88. (Screen capture via YouTube)

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who spent over 40 years representing the state of Utah, died on Saturday at the age of 88.

The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation announced that he passed away at 5:30 p.m. MT surrounded by his family. No specific cause of death was given.

Hatch’s Senate career spanned from 1977-2019, longer than any other Republican in the nation’s history. 

The senator was best known for his efforts to get the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program passed in the Senate and signed into law. He was also known for his committed political philosophy as a fiscal moderate on Capitol Hill within the Republican Party.

The Salt Lake City Tribune noted Sunday reporting on his career:

“In his early years in the Senate, Hatch was seen as a right-wing brawler, fighting for a balanced-budget amendment and laws undermining labor unions. He didn’t earn his deal-making reputation until he struck up a friendship with a liberal lion, late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. Known as the ‘Odd Couple’ in Washington, they teamed to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the first research bill on AIDS and the Americans with Disability Act.”

During a speech on June 17, 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan wryly noted in reference to Hatch and the federal budget; “Let me just say that if every member of the Senate were like Orrin Hatch, we’d be arguing over how to deal with a federal surplus. And that’s why I like to think of Orrin as `Mr. Balanced Budget’.”

His stance on hot button political/cultural issues was extremely conservative. Hatch was strongly opposed to abortion and was the author of the Hatch Amendment to the Constitution that failed to get Senate approval, which stated that there is no constitutional right to abortion and empowered the states to restrict abortion as they saw fit.

On immigration, the senator embraced tougher enforcement immigration policy including expanding the number of Border Patrol officers at the Southern border with Mexico. But he partnered with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-lll.) introducing the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, who were children when their parents came to the U.S.

Thus far the legislation has languished even after being reintroduced several times, but has not been approved by majorities in either house of Congress.

On LGBTQ rights Hatch initially took the Republican Party and conservative stance on the issues of equality. At the start of his political rise in Republican politics as a newly elected U.S. senator in 1977, he told students from the University of Utah; “I wouldn’t want to see homosexuals teaching school anymore than I’d want to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school.

Nine years later in 1996 he supported the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hatch also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which expanded federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed against people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. During Senate debate over the legislation, he questioned whether it was necessary, suggesting that anti-gay violence was not “a major problem.”

As the country moved towards wider acceptance of same-sex marriage, in 2012, the senator voted to confirm U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby to the federal bench in Utah, who then-President Barack Obama had nominated.

Shelby on Dec. 20, 2013, struck down Amendment 3 of Utah’s State Constitution, which defined marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman, opening the way for same-sex marriage in the state.

Shelby ruled that Amendment 3 was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection. As a result Shelby’s ruling set off a series of other district court decisions that overturned bans in several other states.

His ruling was affirmed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25, 2014. On Oct. 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the review the 10th Circuit’s ruling, legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah.

The ruling by Shelby and the effect on the effort to legalize same-sex marriage was noted by Hatch on a Salt Lake City radio show in 2014 saying that, even though he may not like it, legal gay marriage is inevitable:

“Lets face it. Anybody that does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” he said on KSL NewsRadio’s “Doug Wright Show.”
“The trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world.”

Prior to his statements to KSL, in April 2013, Hatch stated publicly that he viewed same-sex marriage as “undermining the very basis of marital law,” but declined to support a federal marriage amendment and endorsed same-sex couples’ right to form a civil union, stating that the law should “give gay people the same rights as married people”

Between January 2012 and February 2014, plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee filed federal district court cases that culminated in Obergefell v. Hodges.

After all district courts ruled for the plaintiffs, the rulings were appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In November 2014, following a series of appeals court rulings that year from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and 10th Circuits that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit ruled that it was bound by Baker v. Nelson and found such bans to be constitutional. This created a split between circuits and led to a Supreme Court review.

On June 26, 2015, Obergefell overturned Baker and required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.

Also in 2013 he was one of only 10 Republican senators who voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would have prohibited discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. On Nov. 7, 2013, the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 64–32. Obama supported the bill’s passage, but the House Rules Committee voted against it.

It appeared to political observers and others that as time moved on, the senator was becoming more progressive in his viewpoints regarding LGBTQ people.

In July 2017, after then-President Trump announcement that he ordered a ban on military service for transgender Americans the senator said; “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone, transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”

In June 2018, the year he retired from the Senate, Hatch gave a speech on the Senate floor expressing his support for the LGBTQ community and drawing attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ youth.

“No one should ever feel less because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Hatch said. “LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society, but that it is far better off because of them. These young people need us—and we desperately need them.”

********************

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Passing of Former Senator Orrin Hatch

Jill and I and the entire Biden family are saddened to learn of the passing of Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senator in Utah’s history, and the longest-serving Republican senator in our nation’s history.

Orrin Hatch once shared in an interview that he had a soft side, and he had a tough side. To serve with Orrin, as I did for over three decades, was to see—and appreciate—both.

He was the fighter who carried with him the memory of his humble upbringing near Pittsburgh, who never humored a bully, or shied from a challenge. The young man who, upon receiving his degree from Brigham Young University, was the first in his family to graduate college; the young lawyer who built a successful law practice; and the senator who sprinted from meeting to meeting because there was so much to do—indeed, when Sen. Hatch retired, he had sponsored or co-sponsored more legislation than any senator at the time.

I saw that energetic, sharp-elbowed Orrin in the many battles we had over tax policy, the right of workers to join a union, and many others.

At the same time, Sen. Hatch was also a man of deep faith; a gentle soul who wrote songs and poems, and shared them with friends, colleagues and the world. This was the Orrin who looked out for the people who often didn’t have a voice in our laws and our country. I saw this in his efforts to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

When I first launched the Cancer Moonshot as vice president, one of the first visits I made was to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, at Orrin’s request. We both saw speeding the pace of cancer research as an issue that transcended political divisions.

When I cast my 10,000th vote in the Senate, Orrin came to the Senate floor and we had a chance to speak. I said that the greatest perk one has as a senator was access to people with serious minds, a serious sense of purpose, and who cared about something. That was Orrin.

He was, quite simply, an American original.

Jill and I send our deepest sympathies to Elaine, and all of the Hatch children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Former senator Orrin Hatch passes away at 88:

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In first, gay Democrat and gay Republican face off in congressional race

GOP candidate was present at Stop the Steal rally

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Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic candidate, (left) is taking on George Santos, a Republican (right) in New York's 3rd congressional district.

The race in New York’s 3rd congressional district is seen as critical in the mid-term elections as Republicans are poised to retake the House and Democrats are trying to preserve their razor-thin majority. But the New York race holds another important distinction as the two candidates — Robert Zimmerman and George Santos — are openly gay, marking the first time out gay candidates from the two major parties have squared off in a House race.

In separate interviews with the Washington Blade, the candidates had markedly different takes on the nature of the historic first, with one saying his sexual orientation influenced his approach to politics and the other utterly rejecting its importance.

Zimmerman, a progressive Democrat and communications official who supports causes like LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and gun reform, said being gay and closeted in his youth living on Long Island in the 1970s shaped his view of politics.

“I went to speak to an educator I trusted, and he suggested to me I try a doctor to make me better, because in those days, that was the path, conversion therapy,” Zimmerman said. “And I certainly didn’t do that, but it just reflects how isolating that period was, but I guess out of that period, that sense of isolation, it helped me to look at the world around me and see a lot of other folks who felt unseen and unheard, and it helped me find my voice that brought me to protest lines, brought me into political activism.”

The first protest for Zimmerman, he said, was in front of the Democratic Party’s headquarters. He’s now a member of the Democratic National Committee in New York. Zimmerman said his political activism also brought him to the office of his member of Congress, where he became a congressional intern and later a member of his senior staff.

Santos, a conservative Republican, downplayed the importance of being a gay congressional candidate and said he doesn’t make it an issue in his campaign, although he conceded,”it feels awesome that the opportunities are equal for everybody in this country.”

“It’s great to see that opportunities are equal to all in this country,” Santos said. “It’s always been that way. … So I don’t make it a campaign issue as far as I don’t campaign on that issue. It’s not a campaign issue for me. I think it’s a distraction, really about the real issues plaguing our country right now. I’d rather talk about that stuff all day long than talk about my sexual preference.”

Key issues for Santos, he said, were many of the same issues Republicans are running on as part of the 2022 mid-term elections, such as inflation, the cost of energy, and crime, which he said are issues that affect every American to varying degrees regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Although he downplays the significance of his sexual orientation, Santos would have the distinction if elected as the first openly gay Republican in Congress since the departure of former Rep. Jim Kolbe in 2009. Santos would also have the distinction of being the first openly gay non-incumbent Republican candidate elected to Congress.

Not exactly fitting the mold of gay members of Congress seen in the past, Santos has aligned himself with a conservative ideology. He has called abortion rights “barbaric,” and spoken favorably about the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Footage exists of Santos saying he was at the Ellipse for the rally with former President Trump that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Santos didn’t deny that he was present at the “Stop the Steal” rally, but said he “did not go” to the U.S. Capitol building on Jan . 6 and downplayed the significance of his presence at the rally.

“I just don’t see how that’s relevant to this interview, and to what we’re doing in 2022,” Santos said. “I just really think the American people deserve journalists to really focus on the future. I really liked this interview to be about proposals and what I’m going to present in Congress come 2023 instead of looking at two years ago, and really reminiscing on that.”

Amid news stories of Republican candidates continuing to deny the outcome of the 2020 election, Santos indicated he wasn’t among them. Asked whether President Biden won the 2020 election, Santos replied, “He’s the president of the United States, I never contested that.” Asked whether Biden is president because he won the election, Santos replied, “Of course.”

Albert Fujii, spokesperson for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said the records of both candidates made it easy for the organization, which endorses openly LGBTQ people running for public office, to decide whom to support.

“Victory Fund proudly endorsed Robert Zimmerman because of his life-long LGBTQ advocacy, commitment to public service and fierce pro-equality and pro-choice vision for America,” Fujii said. “We believe abortion rights are LGBTQ rights and since our inception have always required candidates be pro-equality and pro-choice to receive our endorsement.”

Fujii added Santos never approached the Victory Fund to seek an endorsement. Gay Republicans have sometimes criticized the organization as being a partisan tool of Democrats.

Political outsiders have rated New York’s 3rd congressional district as “leaning Democratic.” Although some initial polling was favorable to Santos as Republicans had an advantage with inflation and gas prices being a major issue, the tide appears to have turned nationwide after the Supreme Court ruling against Roe v. Wade served as a wakeup call to the Democratic base.

Zimmerman said the ruling in the Dobbs case has stirred a high level of activism, predicting LGBTQ rights would be next on the chopping block due to the concurrence of U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who called for revisiting the decision in favor of same-sex marriage.

“You’re seeing a level of energy and activism as a result of the Dobbs decision,” Zimmerman said. “That is truly unprecedented for a midterm election When you take away 50 years of protection for women, and people also understand that’s just the opening bid. They’re coming after our rights of the LGBTQ+ community next, and they’re coming after our rights in so many other areas. You’ve seen a level of engagement, coalition building, and activism that is really unprecedented.”

Santos, presenting a different take on the Dobbs decision, said he thought the ruling “was great” and “gave the states back its power of the Tenth Amendment.”

“I don’t think it affects us here in New York,” Santos said. “I do understand that there’s other states with different decisions, but that’s precisely what the Tenth Amendment does — it gives the rights back to the state so that on a more hyperlocal concentrated issue, the people’s constituency, get to pick what they think is best for them.”

Thomas’s concurring opinion in the Dobbs decision is also not a threat, Santos said, although he criticized it as an “unfortunate moment.”

“He had an unfortunate moment in a dissenting opinion that the majority did not sign on,” Santos said. “Clearly, that’s why it has no legal value. It’s nothing more than a legal essay. A legal essay written by a Supreme Court justice with — I’m just going to go out on a limb and say not the brightest moment in his career.”

One of the consequences of the Dobbs decision was the introduction in Congress of legislation knowns as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would seek to codify same-sex marriage into law regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court decides to revisit it.

Santos, asked whether he’s in favor of the bill, replied, “If the bill is put through committee properly? Yes.” Santos went on to say he had calls from Republicans about the legislation and told them it’s the law of the land and a matter of “if you feel comfortable supporting my right to marry my spouse of my choosing.”

“My only hang up with it is I really wish to give it more legitimacy and not leave any questions open for pundits on both sides of the aisle … let’s just get it passed,” Santos said. “I mean, I have no issue. Of course I’d vote for it.”

When the Blade pointed out he appeared to be leaving the door open to vote “no” based on objections of not going through the regular order of the committee process, Santos denied that was the case: “I didn’t say that. I just said I want it to be that way, so there’s no questions about it. I never in any instance suggested to you I would say ‘no.'”

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Senate to hold off on marriage vote until after mid-term election

Key vote was expected as soon as next week

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The Senate was expected to vote soon on the marriage bill, but Sen. Tammy Baldwin reportedly said that will now happen after the election.

Despite indications the U.S. Senate would soon take up legislation seeking to codify same-sex marriage into law, the legislation now appears to have to wait until after the mid-term elections.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) issued a joint statement Thursday with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announcing the delay in the vote.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple but important step which provides certainty to millions of Americans in loving marriages,” the statement says. “Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language that respects religious liberty and Americans’ diverse beliefs, while upholding our view that marriage embodies the highest ideals of love, devotion, and family. We’ve asked Leader Schumer for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed. We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.”

Baldwin, speaking to reporters after the weekly meeting Democratic caucus, was more specific about the time frame and said the vote would have be after the congressional mid-term election, according to a report in Politico.

“I’m still very confident that they bill will pass but we will be taking the bill up later, after the election,” Baldwin was quoted as saying.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled he would commitment to having a vote on the marriage bill before the year’s end after the announcement of a delay.

“Because Leader Schumer’s main objective is to pass this important legislation, he will adhere to the bipartisan group of senators’ request to delay floor action, and he is 100 percent committed to holding a vote on the legislation this year before Justice Thomas has a chance to make good on his threat to overturn Obergefell,” said Justin Goodman, a Schumer spokesperson.

Baldwin as well as fellow Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — each leaders in talks on the legislation — were seen Thursday huddling in discussion on the Senate floor, according to Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman.

It’s unclear why the vote is now delayed until after the election. The expectation was Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would soon start the procedural process and file cloture to call for 60 votes to end a filibuster on the bill, which would mean as soon as next week.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had signaled he may be able to vote on the legislation and reportedly met with Baldwin earlier in the day, suggested the explanation may be the belief a vote at a later time would bolster the chances of success.

“We should have a vote when you’ve got the votes. They’ll get more votes than November and December than they get on Monday,” Blunt was quoted as saying. “If I wanted [it] to pass and I was the majority leader and I wanted to get as many votes as I could possibly get, I’d wait until after the election.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which had made lobbyist for the Respect for Marriage Act part of its LGBTQ work, issuing a statement lambasting the Republicans upon the announcement of the delay for not having not 10 votes to approve the Respect for Marriage Act right now.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is an incredibly necessary, popular and bipartisan bill – and the and the lack of 10 Republican yes votes right now is extremely disappointing,” said Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Marriage equality – for both LGBTQ+ and interracial couples – is not and should not be a partisan issue, and to treat it as such is an insult to the millions of families who are impacted.”

Lawmakers were working on language for an amendment to accommodate religious objections in hopes it would attract further Republican supporters. A proposed measure, Democratic aides told the Blade, would have mirrored the existing 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but go further.

Prior to the announcement the vote would be delayed, lawmakers had appeared to have finished work on the religious freedom provision.

According to Politico, Collins told reporters she and a handful of other senators had finished their work hashing out changes designed to clarify religious freedom safeguards. Baldwin and Collins, Politico reported, expected the text of the legislation to be released on Thursday.

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Senate may cue up marriage vote soon, but 60 votes not assured

Some Republican leaders doubt there’s sufficient support

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From left, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). (Blade file photos by Michael Key)

Legislation seeking to codify same-sex marriage may be cued up as soon as this week in the U.S. Senate after lawmakers returned from August recess, although reaching the 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster is unassured.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to make the case for the Respect for Marriage Act, which he said was needed in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Over the past few months, both sides have engaged in good-faith conversations about how to pass marriage equality into law,” Schumer said. “I truly hope – for the sake of tens of millions of Americans — that there will be at least ten Republicans who will vote with us to pass this important bill soon. Democrats are ready to make it happen — and willing to debate reasonable compromises on the specifics — so I urge my colleagues on the other side to join us.”

The likeliest scenario, as of Wednesday, was for Senate Democrats to start the procedural process Thursday to set up for votes on the Respect for Marriage Act early next week, two Democratic aides familiar with the bill told the Blade.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only open lesbian in the Senate, has been a proponent of the legislation and would be a likely candidate to go to the floor to seek a vote on the legislation.

Whether or not there are 60 votes in the Senate to end a filibuster is another matter. Supporters of the legislation have been bullish about obtaining 10 Republican votes to aid the united Democratic caucus in cutting off debate to move forward with the bill, but only four Republicans have signaled support in some capacity: Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Ron Johnson (Wis).

“As for vote count, still the same,” one Senate Democratic aide told the Blade on Wednesday. “We don’t have 10 firm commitments from Republicans, but we are close and believe that the votes are there without the firm commitments.”

Johnson also has indicated his support would be conditional upon the inclusion of language to accommodate objections to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Language being drafted by Baldwin and Collins for such an amendment, Democratic aides familiar with the bill told the Blade, would affirm the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but go no further.

A competing amendment on religious exemptions, however, is expected to come from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), according to a report in Politico. His office didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to the Blade’s request to comment on the nature of the amendment or the support obtained for the measure.

Concerns that there aren’t enough votes to advance the Respect for Marriage Act were piqued last week in the aftermath of an article in Politico with the headline: “Same-sex marriage bill teeters on verge of GOP filibuster.” The article points out numerous Republicans who are possible “yes” votes, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska), have yet to declare outright support for the legislation.

Murkowski, who was an early Republican supporter of same-sex marriage, stands out in the group as among the Republicans who have yet to declare a position on the Respect for Marriage Act, although a spokesperson for the Alaska Republican confirmed to the Blade she remains undecided.

“Sen. Murkowski has long supported marriage equality,” said Hannah Ray, a Murkowksi spokesperson. “She is reviewing the House-passed bill and tracking negotiations in the Senate over possible modifications to the text of the Respect for Marriage Act introduced by Sens. Baldwin and Collins, so at this time she has not announced how she will vote.”

The conclusion of the Politico article that sufficient support remains in question, however, appears largely based on quotes from senior Republicans in the Senate who reportedly cast doubt about whether enough members of their caucus would break away to support the bill. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) was quoted as saying right now no one knows “the exact answer” on the number of votes; he reportedly added he hasn’t done a formal whip count.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was reportedly more blunt in his assessment: “I don’t see 10 Republicans,” Cornyn was quoted as saying. “I assume if people were inclined to support it, they would have already declared in support of it.”

Blade readers will remember Cornyn was the member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who pressed now U.S. Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in favor of same-sex marriage, asking her whether she could understand observers being surprised by the outcome.

Despite Cornyn’s projections, Republicans in the Senate have had a history of keeping their cards close to their vests on measures relating to LGBTQ rights before some ultimately break away to vote in the favor of the legislation. Such has been the case in the past 12 years with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Bolstering the prospects for the Respect for Marriage Act is that the bill would reaffirm existing law as opposed to make changes. The legislation also wouldn’t codify same-sex marriage into the U.S. code, but rather repeal from the books the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2013, and require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

A final push for the legislation among its supporters was evident in recent days as expectations for a vote increased. The Human Rights Campaign was set on Thursday to deliver to the Pittsburgh office of the undecided Toomney letters urging him to support the Respect for Marriage Act

Within the Republican Party, more than 400 prominent Republicans signed a letter organized by the LGBTQ group Freedom for All Americans and issued on Tuesday urging support for the Respect for Marriage Act. Among the co-signers are former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who’s gay; Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania; and former president George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush.

“As Republicans and conservatives, we believe strong families and lasting relationships strengthen communities, and civil marriage is a fundamental freedom central to individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the letter says. “We stand with the 71 percent of Americans today, including a majority of registered Republicans, who support the freedom to marry for all Americans.”

Baldwin, for her part, said in a statement to the Blade on Wednesday she continues to remain optimistic about reaching the necessary 60 votes on the Respect for Marriage Act and work continues behind the scenes on those efforts.

“I am continuing my work to build the Republican support needed to pass our bipartisan legislation to protect marriage equality and ensure Americans in same-sex and interracial marriages are guaranteed the same rights and freedoms of every other marriage,” Baldwin said. “These loving couples deserve this certainty and the American people overwhelmingly agree.”

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