4 things to know about the Respect for Marriage Act

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake in Lakewood, Colorado, September 21, 2017.
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake in Lakewood, Colorado, September 21, 2017. | Reuters/Rick Wilking

2. Multiple amendments have been introduced

As is customary in U.S. Senate proceedings, senators have offered various amendments to the legislation that will receive an up or down vote. 

One amendment, authored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, proclaims that "the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that that person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is or should be recognized as a union of … one man and one woman."

Examples of actions defined as "discriminatory" by the amendment include altering an organization's treatment under tax law and/or revoking their tax-exempt status and denying federal grants to individuals and organizations who operate under deeply held beliefs on marriage. The amendment provides any individual or organization subject to adverse action from the federal government due to their views on marriage with a right to seek judicial relief.

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Lee led a group of 21 Republican senators who wrote a letter to their colleagues urging them not to support the Respect for Marriage Act unless his amendment is included in the final version. The letter noted that while "Obergefell did not make a private right of action for aggrieved individuals to sue those who oppose same-sex marriage," the legislation before the U.S. Senate will. 

"What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions," the letter reads.

"Instead of subjecting churches, religious non-profits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax exempt status of faith-based non-profits."

Signatories to the letter, published after the initial cloture vote took place, include Lee, Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Boozman, R-Ark., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, Rand Paul, R-Ky., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Rick Scott, R-Fla., Tim Scott, R-S.C., John Thune, R-S.D., Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss. 

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has introduced an amendment containing similar language restricting the federal government from engaging in adverse tax treatment against organizations based on their views on marriage. Lankford's amendment also clarifies that "for purposes of this Act, and any amendment made by this Act, no faith-based organization shall be considered to be a government actor because the organization entered into a partnership with a government." 

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., filed an amendment to strike the private right of action from the Respect for Marriage Act. He claims that religious organizations that don't explicitly offer religious services — such as orphanages, women's shelters and schools — could be subject to punishment under the bill. 

A vote on the amendments could come Tuesday.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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