Respect for Marriage Act Fueled by 'Fit of Hysteria': Matt Gaetz

Matt Gaetz Respect for Marriage Act Hysteria
Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida said that the Respect for Marriage Act passed in the House due to "a fit of hysteria" on Tuesday. Gaetz is pictured during House Judiciary Committee proceedings in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2022. Kevin Dietsch/Getty

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida said that the Respect for Marriage Act was inspired by "a fit of hysteria" while commenting on his vote against the bill to codify same-sex marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed by a vote of 267-157 in the House on Tuesday. The bill prevailed following concerns that federal protections for same-sex marriage could soon be reversed after the Supreme Court's conservative majority eliminated federal abortion rights by striking down Roe v. Wade last month.

The concurring opinion by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to overturn Roe suggested that the court should "correct the error" of same-sex marriage by reversing the decision that made it legal, Obergefell v. Hodges. Thomas also suggested reversing decisions that protect the right to contraceptives and to gay sexual acts between consenting adults.

Gaetz, one of the 157 Republicans who voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, argued that gay marriage was "not in jeopardy" while reflecting on his vote on Twitter. However, Gaetz said that Obergefell was "a threat to our democracy" that "reflects a growing trend of judicial activism" when the ruling was made in 2015, while other conservatives have denounced the decision more recently.

"Today I voted NO on H.R. 8404—the erroneously named 'Respect for Marriage' Act," Gaetz tweeted on Tuesday. "In a fit of hysteria triggered by one sentence in a concurring opinion by Justice Thomas, Democrats have moved to introduce a bill codifying Obergefell v. Hodges."

"This holding is not in jeopardy," he added. "Gay marriage doesn't offend me nearly as much as offending federalism does through this legislation."

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week on the impact of Roe being overturned, Gaetz reportedly argued that LGBTQ people should be in favor of abortion becoming illegal due to the possibility of creating more opportunities for same-sex couples to adopt.

"I worry that if the LGBTQ community and advocacy organizations for same-sex couples somehow reorient to be a pro-abortion enterprise, that could actually result in fewer same-sex couples having access to the family formation that gives them fulfilled lives," Gaetz said, according to The Advocate.

The Respect for Marriage Act is not the only bill to recently address concerns raised by the Supreme Court's decision. A separate bill to address concerns about contraception rights, the Right to Contraception Act, is expected to be voted on in the House later this week.

The House passed two bills that would ensure federal abortion rights last week, although both bills are likely to be blocked in the evenly divided Senate. The ultimate fate of the Respect for Marriage Act, which Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has co-sponsored, is unclear.

Regardless of the whether the bill wins the support of enough Republicans in the Senate, it passed in the House with the support of 47 Republicans who voted for the bill alongside a unanimous Democratic caucus.

One of the House bill's co-sponsors David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, said the legislation "takes critical steps towards protecting marriage equality across this country."

"The vast majority of the American people agree that marriage equality is settled law," Cicilline said in a statement. "I am proud that this bipartisan bill recognizes the fundamental rights of the American people regarding marriage equality, and I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this bill and send it to the President's desk for his signature."

Newsweek has reached out to the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus for comment on Gaetz's remarks.