The Daily Citizen has been covering the deceptively titled “Respect for Marriage Act” (H.R. 8404) since it was introduced and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last July. The House version, which codifies same-sex marriage into federal law, has been heavily criticized for going far beyond even what the U.S. Supreme Court did in its 2015 Obergefell ruling declaring same-sex marriage to be a constitutional “right.”
The bill is now up for consideration in the Senate.
Focus on the Family president Jim Daly says H.R. 8404 “diminishes, undermines and disrespects the very thing it claims to protect.”
But it gets worse, according to Daly. H.R. 8404 also puts religious individuals and organizations at risk from federal lawsuits and even private lawsuits merely for affirming that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Additionally, the IRS could use its passage as a basis for declaring a new national policy on same-sex marriage that would justify denying charitable tax-exempt statuses to churches and organizations that hold to the biblical definition of marriage.
In the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, a small coalition of misguided senators attempted to make H.R. 8404 more palatable to Republican senators by adding what is euphemistically called a “religious freedom amendment.”
The proposed “amendment” is woefully inadequate. Unfortunately, it worked.
In the first test of H.R.8404 in the Senate, the bill needed 60 votes to advance to the next stage of consideration. Sadly, it earned 62 votes, including 12 Republicans who voted for it along with all 50 Democrats.
That was disappointing, but it is not the end for Christians and conservatives who are fighting this bill. The bill must pass at least two more “cloture” votes in the next couple weeks where 60 votes are also required. The first one, expected as early as Monday, is necessary before the chamber can consider the question of amendments to the bill.
That’s where an opportunity arises for conservatives. But politics is complicated, so let’s break down how it works.
First of all, it’s important to understand that the Senate Majority Leader, Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., controls what amendments can be considered on this bill.
The only amendment of substance that Schumer has allowed thus far, however, is the weak religious freedom amendment proposed by the small coalition of senators that preceded last week’s cloture vote.
The Majority Leader needs to be convinced to allow consideration of other substantive amendments.
How does that happen?
First of all, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and other conservatives have proposed stronger amendments to protect people of faith than the coalition’s version provides. Schumer has denied consideration of all of them.
Lee’s version, in particular, provides that “the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; or two individuals as recognized under Federal law.”
Basic stuff, and sorely needed. You have to ask yourself why proponents of the bill rejected even talking about Lee’s amendment.
But you already know why. The problems with the bill are features, not bugs, to those who introduced it. And people of faith are its intended targets.
If the “Respect for Marriage Act” passes without an amendment such as Sen. Lee’s, the negative impact on people of faith will be felt for generations. That’s why it’s imperative that senators who are key to pushing the next cloture vote past 60 “ayes” need to: (1) be convinced that stronger religious freedom protections are needed; and (2) demand that Schumer allow the Senate to consider amendments, including Lee’s.
As mentioned previously, 12 Republicans voted with Schumer and approved the first cloture vote last week. Sen. Lee has written a letter to those 12 Republicans explaining why his amendment is needed, but you can help.
Five of those 12 are considered to be open to persuasion that stronger religious freedom protections are necessary. Those five include: Sen. Sullivan of Alaska, Sen. Ernst of Iowa, Sen. Young of Indiana, Sen. Capito of West Virginia and Sen. Lummis of Wyoming.
If you live in one of those five states, or simply want to contact your own senators, Focus on the Family is asking you to please call them at the Capitol switchboard, (202) 224-3121 and ask to be transferred to the senator’s office. When a staff member picks up your call, ask them to convey to the senator that the “Respect for Marriage Act,” even with its current, so-called “religious freedom amendment,” doesn’t go far enough to protect religious liberty, and the senator should fight for adding amendments such as Sen. Lee’s religious freedom amendment to the bill’s debate in the upcoming days.
If you would prefer to send an email or use the senator’s online message system (most have one) you can locate your senator’s contact information here.
If just three senators become convinced that H.R. 8404 needs stronger religious freedom protections, they will be able to use their influence to convince Schumer to allow the Senate to debate and vote on Lee’s amendment (and perhaps others). The Majority Leader still needs their votes to reach the 60-vote requirement that is required at least twice more during the bill’s consideration in the Senate, so he will have to listen to their concerns.
That’s why your help is so urgently needed. Please consider taking this important action today.
And thank you for supporting marriage and religious freedom.
Photo from Getty.