GOP Senate Candidates Mehmet Oz, Joe O'Dea Back Same-Sex Marriage Protections

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WASHINGTON ― More than 400 current and former Republican officials have signed a letter calling on the Senate to pass federal legislation protecting same-sex marriage ahead of an expected vote on the matter this month.

The list includes two Republican Senate nominees ― Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Joe O’Dea in Colorado ― as well as dozens of former GOP senators, representatives, governors and cabinet members. The Washington Post first reported the news.

“As Republicans and conservatives, we believe strong families and lasting relationships strengthen communities, and civil marriage is a fundamental freedom central to individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We stand with the 71 percent of Americans today, including a majority of registered Republicans, who support the freedom to marry for all Americans,” reads the letter, which is slated to be released publicly on Wednesday.

MassachusettsGov. Charlie Baker and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito are two prominent signatories who are currently in office. Several figures close to former President Donald Trump also added their names, including pollster Tony Fabrizio and lobbyist David Urban. So did Barbara Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush.

“I’m proud to join this effort with fellow Republicans. I believe that same-sex couples should have the same freedom to get married as straight couples,” Oz, who is locked in a competitive race against Democrat and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, tweeted on Monday.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal nationwide due to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling. But given the risk of the conservative-majority court overturning its past decision, Democrats are pushing to create a law protecting same-sex marriage rights.

Backers of the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act are still seeking additional GOP support for the bill in the Senate; the House approved it by a wide margin in July. Senators are working on several changes sought by conservatives, including by making sure the bill does not protect polygamous relationships or marriage between more than two individuals and that it does not infringe on religious liberty.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), the main Democratic sponsor of the bill and the first openly gay senator to be elected, said she expects it to be taken up by the Senate next week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to hold a vote on the bill this month, but he has not given an exact timeline.

“I know their work is not yet done and I encourage them to keep going,” Schumer said of the bipartisan group of senators who are behind the effort in a floor speech Monday.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.