With 12 Republicans joining 50 Democrats in a 62-37 vote to end debate, the U.S. Senate moved to advance the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” on Wednesday, setting it up for a vote soon.
Wednesday’s vote exceeded the 60 votes needed to avoid a conservative filibuster.
Championed by Democratic Party leaders, the Respect for Marriage Act would firmly establish same-sex marriage into federal law in an attempt to fend off challenges to the constitutionality of the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling legalizing the practice.
Christian groups have staunchly opposed the bill, which they say would cause a cascade of legal challenges to religious liberty over time—even as the bill’s supporters push an amendment they claim would protect tax-exempt status for nonprofits.
The amendment offers no such protection for private businesses, such as wedding vendors, nor for individuals, and would create a “right to private action” for anyone who feels they were discriminated against.
“If the so-called Respect for Marriage Act passes, disrespect for the institution of marriage will become national policy,” said Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, in an email to FRC supporters. “The Senate will paint a bullseye on the backs of concerned parents and people of faith.”
Further, Perkins says the bill “equates belief in natural marriage with racism” and subjects adoption agencies, women’s shelters, and other nonprofits that serve their communities to further risk of lawsuits. And the right of private action in the bill “supercharges” the danger of lengthy, expensive lawsuits, he says.
“This oppression would be backed by the full weight of the federal government and aimed squarely at anyone who dissents—including concerned parents.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill 267-157 on July 19, with 47 Republicans joining every Democrat in the majority. The bill stalled in the Senate, but Democrats have kept their promise to bring it back to a vote following the midterms.
Other groups to oppose the bill include First Liberty Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom and the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), which represents a large representation of evangelical ministries.
NRB said in a statement before the procedural Senate vote: “[The bill’s] light treatment of religious liberty concerns does not afford meaningful protection of those freedoms. This association represents numerous Christian ministries who seek to serve the community, the nation, and the world while affirming and upholding the fact that marriage and family are the most fundamental, God-given institutions for human and societal flourishing.”
Franklin Graham had posted to Facebook early on Wednesday, urging voters to contact their senators to oppose the bill.
“The deceitfully named Respect for Marriage Act will be voted on by the U.S. Senate this week, as early as Wednesday. The bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals and ministries and is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.’ Its sponsors remarkably claim it protects religious freedom. It does not. This disastrous bill sends a message to America that if you don’t agree with the left’s definition of marriage, you are a bigot. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler wrote, ‘Anyone who would redefine marriage, the most fundamental building block of society, is no conservative, no friend of the natural family, and no defender of family values.’ I ask every senator to vote NO. Please call or email your two US senators and tell them to vote NO on the Respect for Marriage Act.” https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm
The 12 Republicans voting with Democrats on Wednesday were Ohio’s Rob Portman; North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and Richard Burr; Utah’s Mitt Romney; Maine’s Susan Collins; Missouri’s Roy Blunt; Iowa’s Joni Ernst; West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito; Wyoming’s Cynthia Lummis; Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan; and Indiana’s Todd Young.
Also, on Tuesday, the Mormon Church officially endorsed the bill after years of opposing same-sex marriage.