President Biden signed the so-called Respect for Marriage Act into law on Tuesday, codifying gay marriage into federal law seven years after the Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to the practice in the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.
In a signing ceremony on the South Lawn, Biden said: “Today is a good day. A day America takes a vital step toward equality, for liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone—everyone. Toward creating a nation where decency, dignity and love are recognized, honored and protected.”
The president also called for passage of the Equality Act, a far-reaching gay and transgender rights bill that critics warn would have catastrophic effects on religious freedom, as well as protections for women, girls and unborn children.
First Lady Jill Biden tweeted “Love forever more,” with heart emojis and a picture of the White House lit up in rainbow colors, as Obama did after the Obergefell decision.
Religious liberty advocates, however, believe the Respect for Marriage Act’s “private right of action” will unleash a barrage of litigation targeting people’s rights of conscience regarding their religious objections to gay marriage.
The law incentivizes LGBT activists to sue Christian business owners who refuse to take part in same-sex ceremonies, threatens the tax-exempt status of religious adoption agencies and other nonprofits, and equates a belief in marriage between one man and one woman with discrimination.
“President Biden has now unleashed one of the greatest assaults on religious freedom in modern history,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “The principles of our First Freedom, guaranteed in our Constitution, that he swore to ‘preserve, protect and defend,’ are now in even greater jeopardy. These founding principles have been challenged for seven years since the Obergefell decision, and in cases involving Jack Phillips and others.”
Republican leaders agreed the bill has insuperable flaws inspired by anti-Christian bias.
“The Respect for Marriage act doesn’t have anything to do with respecting marriage,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told Laura Ingraham Tuesday night. “This is all about attacking people of faith, attacking the nuclear family, people who speak out in favor traditional marriage, and attacking your religious freedom.”
The law obligates states to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, repeals key parts of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and mandates that the federal government recognize gay marriages. It also carves out protection for churches that object to hosting same-sex weddings, but conservatives contend that the law falls short of protecting religious liberty and rights of conscience.
The bill’s critics also warn that Christian schools and other faith-based nonprofits are left legally vulnerable under the act, as well as private business owners, government employees and others who hold Biblical marriage views.
Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook after the Senate vote: “The ramifications for people who stand with traditional marriage between a man and a woman are serious. … This underscores once again how critical it is that we elect the right people to offices of leadership. Our very way of life and the future of this nation depends on it.”
In the Senate, the 12 Republicans who joined Democrats in passing the bill on Nov. 29 by a 61-36 vote were: Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana.
Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who offered one of the amendments that was rejected, said following the vote: “The Respect for Marriage Act isn’t about equality. It’s about making some people’s rights more important than others. I voted against this bill because it will lead to violations of Americans’ constitutional right to live their faith.”
Amendments by Lankford and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) sought to address the concern of increased liability for any person or entity that opposes gay marriage.
Lankford, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, told his colleagues the provision would lead to “countless numbers of lawsuits” from trial lawyers and LGBTQ activists.
“I’ve had individuals that are sponsors of this bill say, ‘None of those things are what we intend,’” Lankford told the Senate before the vote. “But courts don’t rule on intentions of Congress. They rule on the text that we actually put out.”
“This is a discouraging development in our country’s storied history of protecting the free exercise of religion,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who had also offered an amendment to safeguard religious liberty.
In the House, 39 GOP members voted with their Democratic colleagues 258-169 on Dec. 8, despite efforts from conservatives to either stop the bill or add meaningful religious liberty protections.
Perkins said the law’s passage still does not usurp God’s design for Biblical marriage.
“Bible-believing Christians … understand that whether by the White House, the Court, or by the Congress, truth cannot be altered—nor will our commitment to that truth. Marriage is an institution created by God for the well-being of men, women, children, and society as a whole,” he said. “It cannot be redesigned without impoverishing them all.”
Photo: Gary Cameron/ REUTERS