HELENA — Montana’s senators are split on whether to support federal legislation that would protect the right to same-sex marriage.
The Respect for Marriage Act passed the House last week by a vote of 267 to 157, with 47 Republicans joining all the chamber’s Democrats in voting in favor. Montana’s Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Republican, voted against the measure.
Republican Sen. Steve Daines said in a release he also intends to oppose the legislation, believing it is a distraction from other issues.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m opposed to this bill and believe it’s another attempt by Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats to distract the American people from the inflation crisis, energy crisis and the southern border crisis they’ve created,” Daines said.
Daines has long opposed gay marriage. He voiced his disagreement with the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that protected gay marriage as a fundamental right and cosponsored legislation that would prevent the federal government from applying marriage rights and responsibilities to states where gay marriage was illegal.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester told MTN he is supportive of the Respect for Marriage Act, saying all families deserve the same protections and rights to happiness no matter who they love.
“Politicians and activist judges shouldn’t dictate to Montanans who they love and who they can marry—that’s nobody’s business, and it’s certainly not the government’s job to insert itself into the private lives of Montana families. I’m proud to join my Republican and Democratic colleagues in supporting marriage equality because all families should have the same protections and rights to happiness that my wife Sharla and I enjoy,” said Tester.
Tester's views on same-sex marriage have changed over the years. As late as 2012 the senator opposed gay marriage. At the time, he pointed to 2004 when Montana voters amended the State Constitution to prevent same-sex marriages. However, in 2013 Tester officially changed his stance on the matter, telling the Huffington Post that his personal interactions with gay Montana couples made him reevaluate his stance. The change also came at the same time the U.S. Supreme Court heard a number of marriage equality cases.
The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced following the U.S. Supreme Court revoking the federal right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion the high court should reconsider the issue of gay marriage as a federally protected right.
It is unclear at this time if the Respect for Marriage Act will pass the Senate. The chamber is split 50-50 and to pass the legislation would need the support of 10 Republicans to join all Democrats in voting in favor.