J.D. Vance, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio who was able to obtain the Republican presidential nomination thanks in part to backing from gay conservative entrepreneur Peter Thiel, signaled on Tuesday he’d vote against legislation pending before Congress seeking to codify same-sex marriage into law.
Vance made the comments during a debate with Democratic nominee Tim Ryan, with whom he’s locked in a closely watched race that may decide control of the Senate, after being asked about the Respect for Marriage Act.
“I’ve come out against this bill and I don’t think it’s actually about gay marriage or same-sex marriage or same-sex equality,” Vance said. “Look, gay marriage is the law of the land of this country and I’m not trying to do anything to change that.”
Ryan, who as a member of the U.S. House was among those who voted in favor of the legislation, said he continues to support the bill and pointed to a concurring opinion from U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, which sought review of rulings like the Obergefell decision, as evidence of the need to act.
“I voted for that in the House of Representatives and I will support codifying that in the Senate,” Ryan said. “Only J.D. Vance can say that the bill that codifies same-sex marriage is not about same-sex marriage. The problem we have here, we have 15,000 marriages here in Ohio and when you read Justice Thomas’ opinion on abortion, which J.D. Vance wants to celebrate, it also included in there nullifying these marriages, and it also included in there getting rid of protections around birth control.”
Vance’s position is consistent with other Republicans, but stands out because of the backing the candidate received from Thiel, who pumped $3.5 million into the race just before the state primary in addition to $10 million to help Vance last year.
Thiel, an entrepreneur and former board member of Facebook, declared he was gay in speech during the 2016 Republican National Convention, but hasn’t otherwise advanced LGBTQ rights in his prominent position as an entrepreneur. Thiel married his same-sex partner in a ceremony in Vienna in 2017.
Vance’s position on the legislation also stands in contrast the position of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who’s seat Vance seeking to claim upon the incumbent’s retirement. Portman is a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act and one of four Republicans to have signaled support for the legislation, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Johnson, however, has said his support is contingent an amendment making accommodations for religious-based objections to same-sex marriage.
Although initial plans were for the Senate to vote on the legislation ahead of the mid-term elections, supporters made a decision to hold off on the vote until the lame duck session of Congress to make it easier for Republicans to vote “yes.” The House has already approved the legislation in July with unanimous Democratic support and support from one-fourth of the Republican caucus.
Another Thiel-backed candidate, Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, has declined to say one way or the other which way he’d vote on the legislation, although earlier this year he told Republican donors the U.S. Supreme Court “should not be deciding” the issue same-sex marriage and ended up “just squinting and making up so-called rights in the Constitution,” according to a report in The Daily Beast. Masters was in attendance for Thiel’s wedding to his same-sex partner.