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Republican In-Fighting Takes Centerstage After Tillis, Burr Vote To Support Same-Sex Marriage

Source: Editorial Board and The News & Observer

The U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally protects same-sex and interracial marriages, by a 61-36 margin on Nov. 29 – and the bill passed thanks to some surprising support.

The surprise? North Carolina’s two Republican senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both voted to support the bill and protect both same-sex and interracial marriages. Ten other Republicans also supported the bill.

While Tillis and Burr certainly have a history of supporting terrible policies and voting for bad bills, they do deserve recognition for being on the right side of history in this case. 

As for how fellow North Carolina Republicans feel about Tillis and Burr’s vote, well, that’s another story. To say that their right-wing supporters were disappointed would be an understatement.

According to The News & Observer, one state lawmaker has called for Tillis to be sanctioned by the NCGOP “for breaking with the state and national Republican Party’s official platforms, which clearly recognize marriage as between one man and one woman.”

“Senator Tillis has taken on an issue that is so fundamental and contrary to the deeply-held beliefs of so many of the Republican Party faithful that it warrants a response,” Rep. Mark Brody wrote on a right-wing blog site.

Brody went on to write that the party’s division over same-sex marriage is a foundational issue that is “maybe only second to the fight against slavery.”

In addition to Brody, highly influential right-wing organizations like the Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation and the NC Values Coalition have denounced the GOP members who supported the bill. The eight members of North Carolina’s House delegation voted against a similar bill back in July.

For his part, Tillis, who helped negotiate the agreement, has remained strong in his support of the bill, calling it a “good compromise that provides permanent certainty for same-sex couples.”

The disagreement between conservative groups and North Carolina’s Republican senators highlights a growing issue for the state and national parties, The News & Observer wrote. The question is, what kind of party is the GOP and what kind does it want to be? The two choices at this point appear to be a conservative party that is willing to reach across the aisle on certain issues or a right-wing extremist MAGA party that will go scorched Earth before ever agreeing to work with Democrats. The party has two years to figure it out before the 2024 election.

As for the response to the legislation from progressives and the LGBTQ+ community, it too has been mixed, but for different reasons than those of the Republican Party.

While the bill is a crucial step toward protecting the freedom and equality of the LGBTQ+ community, more must be done. 

North Carolina, under right-wing Republican leadership in the legislature, has been hostile to the LGBTQ+ community.

The NCGOP has proposed bigoted legislation that would erase LGBTQ+ voices from school curriculum, censor educators and require mandatory reporting to parents if a student questions their sexual identity in school.

Members of the official state party aren’t the only ones hostile toward this community – extremist parents and school board members across the state have repeatedly tried to ban books that feature LGBTQ+ stories from schools. Part of their efforts has been scare tactics and threats. North Carolina is tied with Texas for the most threats and protests against LGBTQ+ events in the United States. It also doesn’t help to have Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson in such a position of notoriety since he has repeatedly made disgusting comments about the LGBTQ+ community, often making them in churches throughout the state.

While the Senate’s passage was a good first step, legislators both here and in Washington must do more to protect our LGBTQ+ communities. One positive step would be the passage of legislation like the Equality and Fairness for All Act, which would ensure that we can all have the freedom to thrive without fear of discrimination.
The U.S. House was set to pass the bill on Dec. 6, but a vote was not held. It passed on Thursday morning by a 258 to 169 margin with 39 Republicans joining to vote in favor. The bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Dec. 13.

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