Why are the Tories staging a last-minute push to revise the same-sex marriage bill?

Conservative Republicans are stepping up efforts to fight for changes to legislation that would codify same-sex marriage rights into federal law.

The growing opposition comes months after talk of a same-sex marriage bill began on Capitol Hill, with little coordinated messaging from Republicans at first.

Congress began moving forward on the Respect Marriage Act over the summer after the Supreme Court’s repeal of abortion protections raised questions about whether it would do the same with same-sex marriage protections established by the Supreme Court. the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision in 2015.

The House passed the bill in July and the Senate voted to proceed with an amended version last week with the support of 12 Republicans.


But some conservatives object to what they describe as inadequate protections for businesses, nonprofit groups or people with religious objections to same-sex marriage.

“The Democrats’ gay marriage bill is about encouraging Biden’s IRS to target religious schools, churches and charities,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The Senate bill pays lip service to religious liberty and conscience rights, but offers no meaningful protection for those rights,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) wrote in an opinion piece Monday. “If the Senate sponsors had wanted to, they could have explicitly stated that no individual or organization could be penalized by the government for operating on the conviction that marriage unites husband and wife, in particular that the IRS cannot dispossess none of those organizations of its non-profit nature. condition.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has helped lead an effort to delay final passage of the bill until lawmakers agree to an amendment that would strengthen religious freedom protections beyond what’s in the current bill. .

“That’s all I want: a protection that says the government can’t punish any individual or entity based on religious or moral beliefs about marriage,” Lee said.
in the Senate last week. “That’s not too much to ask.”

In a letter to his Senate colleagues on Thursday, Lee and 20 other Republican senators argued that the Respect for Marriage Act would erode religious liberties even more than the Obergefell decision did.

Obergefell did not create a private right of action for aggrieved persons to sue opponents of same-sex marriage,” the Republican lawmakers wrote in the
. “It did not create a mandate for the Justice Department to sue when it perceives an institution to be opposed to same-sex marriage, but the Respect Marriage Act will.”

Conservative critics of the bill argue that it lacks any mechanism to prevent government agencies from using it as a legal basis to go after groups acting in support of traditional marriage, even if the law does not specifically grant such power.

“The fact that there’s so much hostility toward even having a conversation about strengthening the religious liberty provision has made conservatives really suspicious” about the intent of the bill, Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said. washington examiner.

“Conservatives were caught flat-footed,” Roberts said. “There are too many Republican officials who are cowards, and I use that word very intentionally, on this issue.”

Lee’s amendment would prohibit the government from taking a number of actions against a group or person who “speaks or acts, in accordance with sincere religious belief or moral conviction, that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one person only.” men”. and a woman; or two persons recognized by federal law.”

Lee’s amendment defines discriminatory acts that would violate religious freedom protections rather than simply referring broadly to the right of people to hold opposing beliefs about marriage without specifying what that right protects them from, as the draft amendment now does. law.

Government agencies cannot end a group’s tax-exempt status, withhold money from federal grants or contracts, or deny licenses and certifications to groups that oppose same-sex marriage, according to the amendment.

A bipartisan group of senators added an amendment to the legislation last week that was intended to address concerns about religious liberties, including by stating that people are entitled to “diverse beliefs” about marriage.

With that amendment, the bill cites existing religious freedom protections and notes that the new same-sex marriage law would not remove them.

But critics argue that the language is too vague to offer meaningful support for religious beliefs. They also note that existing protections have not prevented religious groups from facing lawsuits in recent years over their opposition to same-sex marriage.

While a religious bakery owner won a high-profile Supreme Court victory in 2018 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, the ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission it was considered narrow because he sided with the baker only because state officials had shown open and personal animosity toward him, not necessarily because judges agreed on his right to deny services to a gay couple.

The Biden administration has also tried to use federal funds as leverage to advance its social agenda in other contexts. For example, Biden’s Department of Education pushed earlier this year to tie federal funding for schools with expanding transgender rights in sports and bathrooms. A judge suspended that plan.


Although 12 Republican senators joined all Democrats in calling for seclusion last week, meaning lawmakers voted to avoid a filibuster and limit debate on the bill, conservatives are moving to stop the final vote. until the Lee amendment is added to the legislation.

“Of those 12 senators who voted to shut down, five of them, we believe, are moveable,” Roberts said.

“I was almost uncharacteristically pessimistic when the closing vote happened,” he added. “I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to be successful in this case.”

Roberts said other conservative advocacy groups, along with Heritage, are coming together this week around a “beautifully coordinated plan” to push for Lee’s amendment to be added to the Respect for Marriage Act.

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