On Tuesday, November 29, the U.S. Senate held four votes on H.R. 8404, the deceptively titled “Respect for Marriage Act,” which enshrines same-sex marriage into federal law. The first three involved amendments dealing with religious freedom guarantees proposed by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Those were all defeated. The roll call votes on those can be found here.
The fourth vote, to pass H.R. 8404, needed 60 votes. The final tally was 61-36, including the votes of 12 Republicans. Three senators, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., did not cast a vote.
The Senate version of the bill, to which was added a so-called “religious freedom amendment” in order to gain the votes of moderate Republicans, has been highly criticized by conservatives and religious organizations as inadequate.
Because the Senate version of the bill contains additions not in the original bill passed by the House of Representatives in July, it will go back to that chamber for another vote. It is expected to pass.
Conservatives decried the final vote.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family issued a statement:
“The United States Senate’s passage of H.R. 8404, the deceptively titled ‘Respect for Marriage Act,’ is a blow to religious freedom and should it become law, which now seems more likely than not, threatens to further undermine the very fragile foundation of the family.
“In opposing this misguided legislation, social conservatives put up a valiant effort. We’re grateful for friends of the family in the Senate, especially Senators Lee, Lankford and Rubio. Each of them offered amendments intended to protect the deeply held religious convictions of organizations like Focus on the Family. Sadly, all of them were defeated. Our coalition partners, including Alliance Defending Freedom, helped rally supporters far and wide. We applaud their principled effort.
“The health of our nation is predicated on the health of its families. It’s inconceivable why a majority of our leaders would deliberately vote to erode the very institution that holds the answer to a thriving country and culture. Children desperately need mothers and fathers, and today’s vote seriously undercuts and ignores what should be a top legislative priority.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Ryan Bangert also criticized the bill in a press release.
“This dangerously cynical and completely unnecessary bill is a direct attack on the First Amendment,” Bangert said. “It does nothing to change the legal status of same-sex marriage anywhere. But it undermines religious freedom everywhere and exposes Americans throughout the country to predatory lawsuits by activists seeking to use the threat of litigation to silence debate and exclude people of faith from the public square.
“Today, the Senate has chosen to disregard legitimate concerns about the undeniable harms of this bill. If the Senate truly cared about protecting religious freedom, it would have included comprehensive amendments proposed by Sens. Lee, Rubio, and Lankford. ADF remains committed to ensuring the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans and to defending those who will likely be targeted because of this legislation.”
The 12 Republicans voting for final passage of the bill included: Blunt (Mo.), Burr (N.C.), Capito (W. Va.), Collins (Maine), Ernst (Iowa), Lummis (Wyo.), Murkowski (Alaska), Portman (Ohio), Romney (Utah), Sullivan (Alaska), Tillis (N.C.) and Young (Ind.).
How did we get to this point?
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court invented a constitutional “right” to same-sex “marriage” in Obergefell v. Hodges. Last July, the Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the House and, remarkably, passed the following day. Its introduction was supposedly in response to a single line from the concurring opinion of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the high court’s June abortion decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade.
In that concurrence, Thomas suggested that the court at some point should re-visit the Obergefell decision, indicating he thought it was based on the same faulty legal premise as Roe. No other justice signed on to Thomas’ opinion, and there is no evidence that any other justice agrees with Thomas.
But that didn’t stop the Left from seizing an opportunity.
Because of the manufactured climate of fear created by the Left that same-sex marriage was imminently in danger – and even more preposterously, that interracial marriage was also – H.R. 8404 was introduced and passed without any committee review and input – including a chance to offer amendments – which is common practice in both the House and Senate.
As to the absurdity of the fear-mongering going on: Does the Left even understand that Justice Thomas is himself in an interracial marriage – to Ginni Thomas? Is he supposed to be suggesting that his own marriage should be rendered illegal?
It boggles the mind.
The bill’s deleterious effects on marriage and religious freedom will be felt for a long time. It’s a shame that so many senators, including 12 Republicans, were dismissive of the valid concerns over the threat to religious freedom the legislation poses.
If you called your senator in recent days or weeks to express your concerns about religious freedom and H.R. 8404, we thank you. As Christians, we always carry the responsibility to be good citizens and participate in the legislative process. We may not always win, but we can always point to Christ and be His ambassadors to those who represent us in Congress.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:7 ESV).
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