Leaders representing more than 80 religious and conservative groups have sent a letter to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an attempt to convince Republicans to vote against the “Respect for Marriage Act” that would codify a right to same-sex marriage into federal law.
The Respect for Marriage Act already passed the Democrat-controlled House in a 267-157 vote last week. The push to pass the measure stems from concern that the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health overturning the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide will pave the way for the court to overturn the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Supporters of the Respect for Marriage Act cite Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs deriding the idea of “substantive due process” as “legal fiction” and expressing a desire to “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents” including Obergefell as evidence that the court may overturn the 2015 decision. At the same time, Thomas signaled an openness to examining “whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.”
The Respect for Marriage Act received the support of 47 Republicans in addition to all Democrats in the House. Maintaining that the bill was “rushed through the House without any public hearings or input,” a group of 83 leaders representing Christian and/or conservative organizations and colleges wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urging him to rally Republicans against it.
Signatories include: Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom, Kevin Roberts of the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld of the Coalition for Jewish Values, Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project, and Brian Burch of CatholicVote.
The signatories condemned the bill as “an attack on millions of Americans, particularly people of faith, who believe marriage is between one man and one woman and that legitimate distinctions exist between men and women concerning family formation that should be recognized in the law.”
Additionally, they warned that the Respect for Marriage Act “aims to shut down any disagreement, silencing those with the long-held conviction that marriage between one man and one woman is essential to human flourishing, a view that has existed from the dawn of time.”
“The truth is, while H.R. 8404 does nothing to change the status of, or benefits afforded to, same-sex marriage in light of Obergefell, it does much to endanger people of faith,” they wrote. “Justice [Samuel] Alito was right when he predicted the Obergefell decision would ‘be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’”
The conservative and Christian leaders contended that the Respect for Marriage Act “effectively deputizes activist groups to sue religious individuals, organizations, and businesses that operate according to their deeply held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman and also act ‘under color of state law.’”
They noted that “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized this as a term that might apply where a private organization participates in a joint activity with a state, is performing a function traditionally performed by the government, or even when its operations are entwined with government policies.”
“Activists will argue this includes (1) faith-based foster care providers who are alleged to be performing a state function through child placement services; (2) religious social service organizations that are heavily funded by and work jointly with the government to serve their communities; and (3) religious organizations and businesses that provide services under contract with the government. Although the issues to be litigated would be many, there is no question the proposed Act subjects religious people, businesses, and organizations to countless new lawsuits.”
Describing the Respect for Marriage Act as “far more extreme than codifying Obergefell,” the conservative leaders suggested that “the bill multiplies the threats against tens of millions of Americans who in ‘good faith’ proclaim a marriage view with which the Act’s sponsors disagree, while laying the foundation for increased federal action and litigation against them.” They concluded the letter by asking McConnell to “urge your colleagues to thoroughly abandon this harmful and unnecessary legislation.”
So far, at least five Senate Republicans have indicated that they will probably or definitely support the Respect for Marriage Act. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rob Portman, Ohio, cosponsored the bill in the Senate, while Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., have identified themselves as likely to support it. The legislation will require 60 votes to pass, meaning that at least five more Republicans must vote in favor of it before it can become law, assuming that all 50 Senate Democrats support the bill.
Only eight Republican senators appear likely or certain to vote against it: Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., James Inhofe, R-Okla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss. The remaining senators have not made it clear how they plan to vote on the bill.
While leaders of conservative organizations have come out against the Respect for Marriage Act, leaders of major corporations have written a letter urging senators to support the legislation. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, announced Thursday that it had assembled a coalition of 173 businesses that had come out in favor of the bill.
Those businesses include: Abercrombie & Fitch, Airbnb, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Bayer, Best Buy, Citigroup, CVS Health, Dell, Delta Airlines, DoorDash, Eventbrite, General Mills, General Motors, Google, H&R Block, Harley Davidson, Hyatt, IBM, IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, LinkedIn, Logitech, Lyft, Macy’s, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Patagonia, PayPal, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Pinterest, Sony, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Target, Tesla, The Walt Disney Co., Twitter, United Airlines, Wells Fargo and Zillow.
Data collected in 2021 by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals 68% support for same-sex marriage nationwide, which has achieved majority support in all but three states: Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. Majorities of respondents living in Arkansas (52%) and Mississippi (55%) oppose same-sex marriage, while only a plurality of those living in Alabama (49%) support it.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org