Ron Johnson Calls Gay Marriage Protections Bill 'Completely Unnecessary'

Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson called federal efforts to protect same-sex marriage "completely unnecessary," arguing that landmark protections for gay marriage—unlike abortion—would "never be overturned" by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an appearance at the Kenosha County Fair last week, Johnson said the Supreme Court would never overturn its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges because it "would impact millions of people," whereas the Court's recent decision to overturn the landmark protections for abortion rights established under the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling served to protect "life in the future."

"This is just Democrats, you know, opening up a wound that had really healed," Johnson said in an interview with Wisconsin's WISN-TV that aired Sunday. "I've always been supportive of civil unions. The Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage and it's, 'Okay that's the decision. Let's move on.'"

His comments came as his Democratic colleague from Wisconsin, Senator Tammy Baldwin, has pushed to enact a federal law codifying people's right to same-sex marriage ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Though he said the bill was unnecessary in a statement earlier this summer, Johnson appeared to express support for the bill at the time, saying to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he "wouldn't oppose the Respect for Marriage Act if it comes up for a vote in the U.S. Senate." However, the Wisconsin Republican told Axios earlier this month that his support was never solid, and that his "yes" vote was not necessarily guaranteed.

Ron Johnson
Above, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, questions U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on September 14, 2021. Johnson called federal efforts to protect same-sex marriage "completely unnecessary," arguing that landmark protections for gay marriage—unlike abortion—would "never be overturned" by the U.S. Supreme Court. Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America

Also not guaranteed is that the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage won't necessarily be on the chopping block. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Court had a responsibility to revisit the Obergefell decision in a concurring opinion issued earlier this year in connection to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Others, like Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, have said in recent months that the Supreme Court was "clearly wrong" and "overreaching" when it legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, and that the decision should be left to individual states.

On abortion, Johnson was of a like mind.

"It should be decided by 'we the people' in each individual state," Johnson said of abortion in his WISN-TV interview. "I've said repeatedly the decision has to be made on a state-by-state basis."

Johnson's campaign has been contacted for comment. Meanwhile, his stance on same-sex marriage could become another factor in his reelection bid as he seeks to defend what many observers believe to be among the most vulnerable Senate seats in the nation. Polling by the Marquette University Law School last week showed the veteran Republican senator trailing his Democratic opponent, Mandela Barnes, by 7 points among likely voters.

Meanwhile, Johnson has sought to distance himself from former President Donald Trump as questions continue to linger about his role in efforts to send an alternate slate of electors from Wisconsin and Michigan that would have overturned Joe Biden's victories in those states during the 2020 presidential election.

"I had, like, virtually no involvement," he told the news station. "Literally, my involvement lasted seconds."

He said that the 2022 midterms should not be decided by support for Trump, but by the person voters feel best to represent Wisconsin in the Senate.

"I don't personally think Trump should have any impact whatsoever on this election in November 2022," Johnson said. "What he does in the future, that's some decision he's going to make. I do understand why people want to always keep bringing him in but again, this is about Wisconsinites, about how they are suffering under Democratic governance, Democratic policies, the higher inflation, the record gas prices, the open borders. We can't keep doing that. That's what this election is about."