‘Have the Courage’ to Protect Religious Liberty in Same-Sex Marriage Bill, GOP Senators Told

A coalition of Republican senators is urging their colleagues to filibuster a same-sex marriage bill until an amendment is added protecting religious liberty.

The Nov. 17 letter from U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and 20 other GOP senators asserts that as written, the Respect for Marriage Act would lead to “more litigation” against institutions and individuals who believe marriage should be defined as the union of one man, one woman.

Lee is the sponsor of the religious liberty amendment, which was first covered in The Daily Signal.

“The undersigned ask that you oppose cloture on the Respect for Marriage Act unless the Lee amendment is added to the bill,” the letter says. “The free exercise of religion is absolutely essential to the health of our Republic. We must have the courage to protect it.”

The bill (H.R. 8404) would define in federal law marriage as a union “between 2 individuals” and officially repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The letter is primarily aimed at Republicans whose support is necessary to break a filibuster. A total of 12 GOP senators voted to allow debate on the bill. Those senators were: Joni Ernst, Cynthia Lummis, Richard Burr, Roy Blunt, Mitt Romney, Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Dan Sullivan, Thom Tillis, Todd Young and Susan Collins.

The Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage decision, the letter says, did not “create” a right to sue institutions and individuals who oppose same-sex marriage. But “the Respect for Marriage Act will.”

The letter quotes an oral argument exchange between Donald Verrilli – the solicitor general under President Obama – and Justice Samuel Alito – who voted in the minority against the federal legalization of same-sex marriage.

“In response to Justice Alito asking whether … should states be required to recognize same-sex marriages, religious universities opposed to same-sex marriage would lose their tax-exempt status, General Verrilli replied, ‘… it’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito, – it is going to be an issue,’” the letter says.

“Should Congress decide to codify Obergefell and protect same-sex marriages, we must do so in a way that also resolves the question posed by Justice Alito,” the letter says. “Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, 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 nonprofits. As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance. No American should face legal harassment or retaliation from the federal government for holding sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The Lee amendment would “ensure that federal bureaucrats do not take discriminatory actions against individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage,” the letter says.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Marc Bruxelle/EyeEm

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.