This past Wednesday, a new bill seeking to officially codify same-sex marriage protections into federal law was able to make its way through a procedural vote which sported the support of a group of 12 Republican senators, all despite concerns that it could result in the infringement of religious freedoms.
If passed, the Defense of Marriage Act, a law from 1996 that put a legal definition onto marriage as being between one man and one woman and allowed some states to choose not to recognize any same-sex marriages from any other state, would be totally replaced by the newer Respect for Marriage Act. The RMA would redefine things so that a “person acting under color of State law” would be forced to officially recognize all marriages between two people from any other state. It also makes it so that the entire federal government would be responsible for recognizing any marriage as long as they were valid within the state where the marriage took place.
This procedural vote managed to pass with a tally of 62 to 37. The Republicans who voted to push through the bill included: Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Todd Young (IN), Joni Ernst (IA), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), Dan Sullivan (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC).
The senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, Greg Baylor, expressed that “the original version of the bill created serious threats to religious liberty. The changes to the bill did virtually nothing to address those threats. The amendments to the bill that purport to protect religious liberty are mere window dressing.”
Baylor stated further that the bill “gives the IRS one more building block in its case to take away the taxes and status of nonprofits that hold traditional views on marriage.” he claimed that it also “creates a threat to religious social service agencies that work with the government,” and could “affect how religious freedom cases are analyzed more broadly.”
In the wake of issuing his vote to pass the bill, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) stated that the current bill did quite a bit to speak to religious freedom, even as Senator Mike Lee, his fellow Utah Republican colleague, stated the exact opposite.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 16, 2022
This past month, the Religious Freedom Institute put forth its own statement targeting key senators in order to get them to not support the new initiative. The Religious Freedom Institute has expressed concern with the wording “under color of state law,” expressing that it would be used to open up an organization to liability.
However, on Monday, one group of senators with members from both sides of the aisle explained that they had reached an agreement that included quite a bit more religious freedom protections within the bill. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) explained that they had confirmed that the “legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality.”
The group explained that their amendment “[p]rotects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law,” and goes along with the idea that non-profit religious will not have to issue services that do not coincide with their beliefs. It also stated that the new bill “does not require or authorize the Federal government to recognize polygamous marriages.”
The final thing claimed about the amendment expresses that benefits and rights cannot be taken away if they are not from a marriage. “For instance, a church, university, or other nonprofit’s eligibility for tax-exempt status is unrelated to marriage, so its status would not be affected by this legislation,” explained the release.