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Pete Buttigieg's Viral Reaction To The Debate About The Respect For Marriage Act Speaks Volumes

The openly-gay Secretary of Transportation fired off a relatable tweet as the Senate debated whether or not to codify same-sex marriage protections.

Pete Buttigieg
Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg posted a relatable tweet as the Senate debated whether or not to codify protections for his marriage.

Ultimately, the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) received bipartisan support and passed the Senate, in a 61-36 vote, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to vote for it. Three Senators did not vote.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass before it can go to Democratic President Joe Biden to sign into law.

As the openly-gay Buttigieg—who is married to educator and activist Chasten Buttigieg—watched the Senate debate the legislation, he commented on the strangeness of seeing "something as basic and as personal as the durability of your marriage come up for debate on the Senate floor."

You can see his tweet below.

Buttigieg added he was "hopeful" the Senate would act to "protect millions of families, including ours," expressing his appreciation for "all that has gone into preparing this important legislation to move forward."

Concerns about the future of marriage equality have taken on fresh urgency in the months since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that once protected a person's right to choose reproductive healthcare without excessive government restriction.

The decision on Roe, which hinged on a right to privacy that while not explicitly granted in the United States Constitution was nonetheless accepted per the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (which grants all citizens “equal protection of the laws"), suggested other Supreme Court rulings, such as those regarding contraception, same-sex and interracial marriage, are now in doubt.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in a solo concurring opinion that established gay rights (Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges) and contraception rights (Griswold v. Connecticut) should be reconsidered now that the federal right to reproductive freedom has been revoked, calling them "demonstrably erroneous" and calling on the Court to "correct the error."

Buttigieg's tweet struck a chord with many who expressed gratitude for the bill's passage but vented their frustrations with years of GOP objections to marriage equality and reproductive rights.

While RMA does include some exemptions for religious nonprofits and conscience protections under the Constitution—a feature that's prompted some LGBTQ+ rights advocates to say that the bill doesn't go far enough—several Republicans, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, tried but failed to add additional amendments expanding religious freedom exemptions.

Over the summer, in the days following the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs, Buttigieg criticized Rubio for claiming that a marriage equality bill is a "stupid waste of time."

At the time, Buttigieg said that if Rubio has "got time to fight against Disney, I don’t know why he wouldn’t have time to help safeguard marriages like mine," referring to Rubio's public criticisms of the Disney Corporation for speaking out against Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" law.