Republican Sen. Thom Tillis Expects Marriage Equality Bill to Pass in the Senate: 'We've Made Progress'

In July, the Respect for Marriage Act passed in the House with the support of 47 Republican representatives. Passing the 60-vote threshold in the Senate is the next step

Thom Tillis
Thom Tillis. Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is predicting that the Senate will support marriage equality in a consequential vote this month, Bloomberg reported.

"We've made progress with the drafting," the North Carolina politician, 62, said to the outlet on Tuesday, adding that he thinks at least 10 Republican senators will turn in support of the bill. The bill needs 60 votes in Senate to become law.

The bill in question, called the Respect for Marriage Act, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that said the federal government will not recognize any same-sex marriages performed by states. (DOMA is currently unenforceable thanks to landmark Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, though it still exists on paper, meaning it could be reinstated if those rulings were overturned by the current court's conservative stronghold.)

According to Tillis, the major hurdle at the moment is regarding religious liberties, a matter the senators have been trying to solve. "I think we've addressed a lot of the religious freedom questions that some had and we think we're going to move it this month," he predicted to Bloomberg.

Sen. Mitt Romney echoed Tillis' comments saying that he has had "staff-level negotiations" but is still wary, adding, "My focus is on ensuring that we protect religious liberties," Axios reported.

Alongside Tillis, a few other Senate Republicans have said they would consider backing the bill. Among the potential supporters are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Bloomberg listed.

These are the only senators that have gone public with their support, though many others may have done so privately.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin confirmed to Axios, "I have certainly had conversations where Republicans have privately indicated to me that they will support it."

With that said, not all senators are as certain as Tillis. "I don't know yet," Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told Bloomberg Tuesday evening. "We have a meeting tomorrow with some of us to talk about it, but it's still uncertain."

The Respect for Marriage Act passed in the House on July 19, earning the support of 47 Republican representatives, and will soon be brought to the Senate floor where it needs to pass the 60 votes threshold to pass.

"We still feel good that we can get to 60," David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, told PEOPLE.

Ikeita Cantu, left, and her wife Carmen Guzman, of McLean, Va., hold up signs as they celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. The couple was married in Canada in 2009 when gay marriage was illegal in Virginia
Wives celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage outside SCOTUS in 2015. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Stacy also noted that when the Senate brought a vote on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in 2010, reaching the 60-vote minimum was also uncertain. It ended up passing with 65 yea votes. Again in 2013 as the Senate brought the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to a vote, passage was not guaranteed, and that one earned 64 yea votes.

In just a week, the HRC got more than 170 corporations and counting to join them in urging Republican senators to vote in line with Americans' values, not the tradition of their party. And in a telling move, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has stayed neutral on the bill thus far, seemingly forgoing his power to lobby for Republicans to oppose it and giving GOP senators more freedom to vote their conscience.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer.

"We feel at HRC that we're close enough now that we're ready at any time," Stacy said, "but obviously Sen. Schumer has to make his own determinations and figure out the floor schedule."

Regardless of whether the bill becomes law, widespread support for Americans to marry the person they love — regardless of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation — is not going anywhere.

"The support for marriage equality is so consistent across poll after poll after poll," Stacy noted. "The numbers are ticking up and they're sticking."

Related Articles