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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

What Will the Respect for Marriage Act Require from Americans?

            Same-sex marriage is back in the news after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Most people would not have made the connection between same-sex marriage and abortion if Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives had not rushed through a bill to codify same-sex marriage into federal law.

            The House-passed Respect for Marriage Act has now gone to the U.S. Senate for consideration, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to bring it to a vote. Gillian Richards reported that conservative leaders sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) requesting that the Senate reject the bill. The reason given is, “The Act, which was suddenly rushed through the House without any public hearings or input, is an attack on millions of Americans, particularly people of faith, who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.” 

More than 80 conservative leaders and Alliance Defending Freedom signed the letter. According to Richards, these leaders believe that “the bill would threaten the religious freedom rights of individuals and groups across the nation if it becomes law,” while at the same time doing “nothing to change the status of, or benefits afforded to, same-sex marriage in light of Obergefell.”

The signers include Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom; Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation; Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council; Craig DeRoche, president and CEO of the Family Policy Alliance; and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family….

The authors of the letter noted that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito correctly predicted the Obergefell ruling would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” as the justice wrote in his dissent to the 2015 case.

The Respect for Marriage Act, the conservative activists argued, could “require federal recognition of any definition of marriage without any parameters whatsoever.” They also fear that the bill, should it pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president, would encourage left-wing activist groups to sue individuals and organizations who do not conform to HR 8404’s definition of marriage.

     In addition to the letter, the Conservative Action Project released a separate statement

yesterday to urge the senators to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act. According to Richards, this statement cited previous lawsuits. It referred to the case of Barronelle Stutzman who declined to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding and was sued by Washington State. Her case was managed by Alliance Defending Freedom who petitioned the Supreme Court to accept her case in 2017. The high court declined twice to take her case, and she retired after the second appeal.

             The statement also cited the cases of bakers in two states. Jack Phillips (Colorado) and Aaron and Melissa Klein (Oregon) were sued for refusing to make design cakes for same-sex weddings. Richards explained that the authors of the statement fear that there will be more such cases. “The Court’s decision in Obergefell unleashed religious freedom violations across the land, launching a new era of harassment and coercion of millions of Americans who hold a sincere religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is, or ought to be, between one man and one woman.”

The Conservative Action Project’s statement garnered signatures of more than 80 conservative leaders, many of whom also signed the Alliance Defending Freedom’s letter to McConnell. The signers include Edwin Meese III, Ronald Reagan distinguished fellow emeritus at The Heritage Foundation; the Family Research Council’s Perkins; and Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project.

According to the statement, the Respect for Marriage Act would not only “increase the threat of legal liability for those who decline to affirm same-sex marriage, but it would help cement a ‘national public policy’ on same-sex marriage that would have drastic consequences.”

Commenting on the coalition letter to McConnell, Farris remarked:

Despite claims from its sponsors, the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ doesn’t simply codify the Obergefell decision. It forces the federal government to recognize without limit any marriage definitions that a state adopts.

It also empowers the government to punish millions of Americans who hold decent and honorable beliefs about marriage – beliefs that have existed since time immemorial – exposing citizens to predatory lawsuits and even endangering the nonprofit status of faith-based organizations.

            I did not see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints listed as signing the letter. However, the Church of Jesus Christ has long fought to preserve traditional marriage and the family. In 1995, the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” After defining marriage as being between one man and one woman and explaining the importance of marriage and family, the proclamation gave the following warning: 

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

            I encourage you to join with me in prayer and supplication to God that He will be with the senators. Please join me in praying that the senators will recognize the damage that will be done to our society by codifying same-sex marriage and that they will reject the Respect for Marriage Act. May God bless America and Americans!

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