Collins accused of holding marriage equality bill ‘hostage’ after Manchin flip

By: - July 29, 2022 3:07 pm
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine talks with reporters about the Respect for Marriage Act

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks with reporters about the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is warning that the once bright prospect of a marriage equality bill passing the Senate has now dimmed as Republicans fume over West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s turnabout on the Democrat’s larger spending bill.

“Let’s be clear,” tweeted Charlotte Clymer, an activist and former press secretary for rapid response at the Human Rights Campaign, “Susan Collins is attempting to hold hostage a vote that would protect marriage equality because Manchin isn’t going the way she wants on an unrelated bill.”

“Her support for basic human rights apparently hinges on an unrelated process,” Clymer added.

Days ago, Collins told the press she was close to securing the GOP votes needed to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify the right for same-sex and interracial couples to marry.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with my colleagues. And this bill is very straightforward,” Collins said. “All it does is put into federal law the protection for the million same-sex marriages that are out there today.”

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But the announcement that Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had struck a deal on a reconciliation package that would allow negotiations on some Medicare prescription drugs, end corporate tax loopholes and address climate change has worked the GOP into a lather.

After the announcement, the party blocked passage of a bill that would provide health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits overseas. Now, marriage rights appear to be on the chopping block, as well.

“After we just had worked together successfully on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPs bill, it was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way,” Collins told HuffPost Thursday about the Democrats’ climate, health and taxes bill.

Advocates immediately blasted the Maine senator for playing politics with human rights.

“These bills aren’t related,” U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) tweeted. “This is Susan Collins being Susan Collins. An embarrassing coward.”

In a similar about-face, Collins in 2021 withdrew her support for the Equality Act, a bill she previously sponsored that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and increase the areas subject to those protections, after the Human Rights Campaign endorsed her Democratic opponent in the 2020 Senate race.

On Thursday, Collins’ press secretary Annie Clark pushed back against the criticism of the senator on social media, saying the Maine Republican still supports the marriage equality bill even though some of her colleagues may not anymore.

“Senator Collins is working to build support for the bill. She wants it to succeed,” tweeted Clark. “But bipartisan cooperation on important issues is obviously more difficult with partisan reconciliation dominating the Senate. So we might have to wait a little bit before we can get it done.”

This story was first published by Maine Beacon, a member of the States Newsroom network with the Louisiana Illuminator.

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Lauren McCauley
Lauren McCauley

Lauren McCauley is editor of Maine Beacon. Previously, she was a senior editor at Common Dreams covering national and international politics and progressive news. Lauren also helped produce a number of documentary films, including the award-winning "Soundtrack for a Revolution" and "The Hollywood Complex," as well as one currently in production about civil rights icon James Meredith. Her writing has been featured on Newsweek, BillMoyers.com, TruthDig, Truthout, In These Times and Extra! the newsletter of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. She currently lives in Kennebunk with her husband, two children, a dog and several chickens.

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