Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) moved for a procedural vote Wednesday on legislation that would enshrine same-sex marriage in federal law and block any states refusing to recognize such marriages.
The bill also would provide federal protection for interracial marriage.
The motion to advance the legislation (H.R. 8404), dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act by Democrats, received significant Republican support, with a vote of 62-37, above the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.
The bill states no person in any state may deny “full faith and credit to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State pertaining to a marriage between 2 individuals, on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.”
“Today, the Senate is taking a truly bold step forward in the march toward greater justice, greater equality, by advancing the Respect for Marriage Act,” Schumer said in a floor speech prior to the vote. “It’s a simple, narrowly tailored but exceedingly important piece of legislation that will do so much good for so many Americans. It will make our country a better, fairer place to live.”
An amendment introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), however, that would provide necessary protections for religious liberty, was rejected.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 16, 2022
Lee called the amendment to protect religious freedom that was presented by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly gay senator, and pro-abortion-rights Susan Collins (R-ME), as “woefully insufficient” to provide religious freedom protections.
“Religious Americans will be subject to potentially ruinous litigation, while the tax-exempt status of certain charitable organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits will be threatened,” Lee asserted.
“My amendment would have shored up these vulnerabilities,” Lee added. “It is a shame it wasn’t included.”
The Baldwin-Collins amendment states:
SEC. 6. NO IMPACT ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND CONSCIENCE.
Nothing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to diminish or abrogate a religious liberty or conscience protection otherwise available to an individual or organization under the Constitution of the United States or Federal law.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) explained he did not vote to advance the bill, which he views as yet another fear-mongering opportunity for Democrats, because Democrats rejected an amendment that would provide sufficient protection for religious liberty rights:
The Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary as the Obergefell decision is settled law and has no chance of being overturned. The Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization made clear no other right would be affected by its ruling. The Democrats have used this to create a state of fear over a settled issue in order to further divide Americans for their political benefit. The substitute amendment did not provide sufficient protection for those with strongly held religious beliefs and leaves a lane open for discrimination by activist groups, state governments and the IRS. Senator Lee proposed an amendment that would have prohibited the government from taking such action, and even offered to vote for the bill if they accepted it. I would have also supported the bill with his language. The fact that the bill’s sponsors rejected his offer speaks volumes. Religious liberty should be upheld for all and those with sincerely held religious beliefs should not be discriminated against for their views on marriage.
Liberty Counsel stated Tuesday the Democrat legislation is “unconstitutional”:
Congress does not possess the constitutional authority to define marriage and to enact such legislation under Article I. In striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the reverse of the ill-named Respect for Marriage Act, the U.S. Supreme Court stated in United States v. Windsor that “[b]y history and tradition the definition and regulation of marriage . . . has been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States.
The nonprofit ministry added the proposed amendment “does nothing to protect religious liberty because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act only applies to the federal government,” and noted, “Therefore, state action will not be affected.”
Liberty Counsel added that the amendment “severely restricts the purported exemption for religious organizations by restricting it to a limited subset of only nonprofit entities”:
Nothing in HR 8404 or the proposed amendment will provide any protection for religious individuals or organization, and the subsequent amendments to the bill exclude a large percentage of constitutionally and statutorily protected religious organizations.
“If HR 8404, the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, passes, gender will be irrelevant, not only in marriage, but also in any aspect of American life,” the Christian litigation ministry said.
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said the legislation “will trample upon religious freedom.”
“It will undermine the 303 Creative case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and will force individuals who engage in artistic expression to violate their religious convictions concerning marriage,” he observed. “Congress has absolutely no authority to regulate marriage within the several states. This bill should be defeated now or it will be defeated in the courts later.”
The 12 Republicans who voted to advance the bill are:
- Roy Blunt (MO)
- Richard Burr (NC)
- Shelley Moore Capito (WV)
- Susan Collins (ME)
- Joni Ernst (IA)
- Cynthia Lummis (WY)
- Lisa Murkowski (AK)
- Rob Portman (OH)
- Mitt Romney (UT)
- Dan Sullivan (AK)
- Thom Tillis (NC)
- Todd Young (IN)
The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It was introduced after the Supreme Court released its decision in Dobbs, overturning Roe v. Wade, when Democrats stoked fear about a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas in which he suggested the Court reconsider other cases, in addition to Roe, that were decided based on “substantive due process,” referring to the idea that people have fundamental rights that are not specifically established in the Constitution, and, therefore, could be created, as they were in Roe, where no right to abortion ever existed in the Constitution.
The House passed similar legislation earlier this year with dozens of Republicans voting for the measure, but the chamber would have to pass the Senate’s final version before sending it to Joe Biden’s desk.
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