Respect for Marriage Act Will Usher In ‘New Era of Oppression’ for Christians
Senate Republicans are feeling the pressure to defend marriage and the natural family, as two large grassroots coalitions warn them that a controversial bill will fuel frivolous litigation and subject the most fundamental unit of society to an infinite variety of experimentation and tampering.
H.R. 8404, which proponents of redefining marriage have dubbed the “Respect for Marriage” Act, would require states to accept any marriage legally recognized in any other state “without any parameters whatsoever,” one of the coalitions notes. “This would include plural marriages, time-bound marriages, open marriages, marriages involving a minor or relative, platonic marriages, or any other new marriage definition that a state chooses to adopt, including through undemocratic imposition by a state Supreme Court,” wrote 83 grassroots organizations led by the Alliance Defending Freedom in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Another letter cites 10 lawsuits that have already targeted Christians for living according to their biblical values, stating if the hastily introduced legislation passes, far-left activists will take Christians and observant Jews to court for living out their faiths.
“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,” wrote the Conservative Action Project, which was founded by Reagan administration Attorney General Edwin Meese and is now chaired by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. “The Respect for Marriage Act will further usher in this new era of oppression.”
“This legislation will only hasten and intensify hostility” against “those who decline to openly embrace extreme views regarding marriage and human sexuality,” agreed ADF. “H.R. 8404 effectively deputizes activist groups to sue religious individuals, organizations, and businesses that operate according to their sincerely held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
The law could also give birth to draconian federal regulations designed to force Christian and other traditional religious organizations out of the public square. “The Internal Revenue Service could rely on this congressional declaration requiring full recognition of same-sex marriage to strip 501(c)(3) organizations of their tax-exempt status if they continue to adhere to their belief that marriage is only between one man and one woman,” ADF wrote. Same-sex marriage supporters acknowledged this during the Supreme Court debate in Obergefell v. Hodges, when then-U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli told justices in 2015 the status of religious nonprofits is “certainly going to be an issue.”
Critics also say the Respect for Marriage Act — which would fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton — say there’s no reason to radically alter the definition of a primordial, pre-political, and integral part of society. “Nothing has changed about the science behind natural marriage; it is still in children’s best interest to be raised in homes with a married mother and father. This was true thousands of years ago, twenty-five years ago, and is still true today,” wrote CAP. “The Respect for Marriage Act must be rejected.”
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 8404 last Tuesday, one day after its introduction, with 47 Republican votes. The vast majority of Republicans in the Senate have yet to take a position on the bill. “A lot of them are making a political calculation” that Christian churches are “asleep,” Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins — who signed both letters — last week.
“We call on you to reject H.R. 8404 and to urge your colleagues to thoroughly abandon this harmful and unnecessary legislation. It has little to do with protecting rights,” wrote ADF. “Its text betrays an intent to stigmatize and take rights away — especially those belonging to people of faith.”
The ADF letter was signed by the distinguished leaders of 83 nonprofits, ministries, and universities, including Rev. Franklin Graham, Dr. Albert Mohler, Kevin Roberts of the Heritage Foundation, Kelly Shackelford of First Liberty Institute, Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project, Ryan Anderson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Mat Staver of Liberty Council, Brian Burch of CatholicVote, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, and Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy.
The CAP letter included 83 notable signatories, including former Congressman Timothy Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute, Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation, Mark Fitzgibbons of ConservativeHQ.com, Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center, and Peter Thomas of The Conservative Caucus.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.