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Representative Jim Jordan speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C. on June 23,.Ting Shen / Bloomberg via Getty Images, file

Jim Jordan makes odd case against the marriage equality bill

It’s one thing for Republicans to make the case against legislation. It’s much weirder when they make the case against legislating.


As the House prepared to consider the Respect For Marriage Act, which would codify marriage equality in federal law, Republican leaders had a message for their members: The GOP would not “whip” this vote.

In other words, while party leaders routinely give their members directives, urging them to vote one way or another on a given piece of legislation, GOP lawmakers were free to simply vote their consciences on this one, without partisan pressure. (Soon after, 47 House Republicans voted with the Democratic majority.)

But while party leaders decided not to twist any arms on marriage equality, Politico reported that one prominent GOP member took it upon himself to do some intra-party lobbying.

House GOP leadership didn’t whip its members one way or another on a Democrat-led bill to protect same-sex marriage. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and its members, urged their GOP colleagues to vote against the bill.

Much of the Ohioan’s case was predictable and uninteresting. Jordan argued, for example, that the legislation is “unnecessary” since the Supreme Court isn’t yet prepared to undo its Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. He also said the entire Democratic effort was part of some kind of distraction scheme.

But Jordan also argued that the Respect For Marriage Act is proof that Democrats want to “delegitimize the Supreme Court.”

The congressman didn’t just include this in his memo to GOP members, Jordan repeated the line on the House floor during the legislative debate: “This bill is simply the latest installment of the Democrats’ campaign to delegitimize and attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court.”

By any fair measure, this is an odd argument for a member of Congress to make.

Let’s review the basics. Democrats support marriage equality. Fearing possible efforts to roll back these civil rights, the governing majority decided to engage in routine legislating, codifying marriage equality in federal law.

If Jordan were opposed to equal marriage rights, he was welcome to explain why. If the Republican believed the legislation should be amended in some meaningful way, he had an opportunity to present those arguments on this, too.

But Jordan instead argued that the legislative branch shouldn’t legislate on the matter at all — because for Congress to pass a federal law enshrining an existing right is to “delegitimize and attempt to intimidate” the Supreme Court.

In other words, this was a rare example of a federal lawmaker arguing that other federal lawmakers shouldn’t pursue a legislative priority through federal lawmaking.

It’s one thing for Republicans to make the case against legislation. It’s much weirder when they make the case against legislating.