(Photo: Jeffrey T. Marshall/Pixel Rally Photography)
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill Thursday that would protect the tax exempt status of organizations opposed to gay marriage. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House in September.
If passed, the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act" would prevent the government from denying tax exempt status for any group because it opposes the redefinition of marriage.
"This bill protects the rights of individuals and organizations from religious discrimination by the federal government," Lee said. "Those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage deserve respect and tolerance. It is critical that we clarify the law to ensure that their fundamental civil liberties are not at risk."
The bill has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops, Family Research Council, National Organization For Marriage, Heritage Action, Concerned Women For America, and The Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission Of The Southern Baptist Convention, and Liberty Counsel Action.
The bill's current cosponsors, all Republican, are David Vitter (Louisiana), Marco Rubio (Florida), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), Roy Blunt (Missouri), James Inhofe (Oklahoma), James Risch (Idaho), Roger Wicker (Mississippi), Thad Cochran (Mississippi) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).
The House version, H.R. 3133, currently has 92 cosponsors, including at least two Democrats.
During debates over the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, proponents of the redefinition often claimed that it would have no impact on those who held traditional views about marriage. That, however, has turned out not to be true.
There have already been cases in which those opposed to gay marriage have been punished by the state. In some instances, this has even happened in states that have not redefined marriage. In recent cases, for instance, photographers and bakers have been sanctioned for declining to work at gay weddings.
Religious freedom advocates and groups opposed to gay marriage have grown concerned that the denial of tax-exempt status is a future step in this alarming trend. Lee's bill, and the associated House bill, represent an effort to codify religious freedom protections in the tax code before that discrimination against traditionally held views takes place.