By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
September 30, 2022
Supporters of a Senate bill that would codify same-sex marriage in federal law have postponed a vote until after the November elections with the goal of garnering enough Republican votes to secure its passage.
The bill, dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404), would define in federal law marriage as a union “between 2 individuals” and ensure that same-sex marriage remains legal even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The bill also would officially repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Five U.S. senators, including North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis, released a joint statement Sept. 15 saying the vote was being delayed in order to rally support.
“The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple but important step which provides certainty to millions of Americans in loving marriages,” said the statement, which was attached to the names of Tillis and also Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
The group said it had asked Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for “additional time” to rally support and “he has agreed.”
Critics say the bill could have a devastating impact on religious liberty. Critics also say the bill could lead to the nationwide legalization of polygamy and child marriages.
Assuming all 50 members of the Democratic caucus remain united in support of the bill, supporters need the backing of 10 Republican senators to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
“Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language that respects religious liberty and Americans’ diverse beliefs, while upholding our view that marriage embodies the highest ideals of love, devotion, and family,” the senators’ statement said. “… We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.”
The bill — which already passed the House — now presumably will be voted on during a lame duck session of the Senate. President Biden has said he would sign it.
Tillis, as speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, supported a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Voters passed it in 2012, 61-39 percent.
North Carolina’s other U.S. senator, Richard Burr, voted in 2006 for a federal marriage amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment failed in the Senate.
“Thus far, Senator Tillis seems to have stacked himself out in support of H.R. 8404 and Senator Burr will not state a position against the measure. This is unacceptable and terribly disappointing and demonstrates that neither of North Carolina’s U.S. senators are men of conviction on marriage. Such men James 1:8 describes as ‘doubleminded and unstable in all their ways,’” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
“Because Burr is retiring, he has nothing to lose politically if he votes for the bill. Tillis, however, I believe seriously underestimates the fallout and will lose his moral authority and possibly never be elected again. If he votes for the bill, as he has promised, citizen Christians who forget and still support him will do exactly what he expects them to do in the coming years. If the Christian Action League has anything to do with it, we can’t let that happen. It would insult the God to whom marriage exclusively belongs,” added Rev. Creech.
This summer, a pro-family coalition led by Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family and the Heritage Foundation sent a letter to Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warning that H.R. 8404 could have a devastating impact on the religious liberty of Christians, churches and others who affirm the biblical definition of marriage.
“[H.R. 8404] is 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,” the letter said. “… H.R. 8404 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.
“… Through its sweeping language and creation of new and broad enforcement mechanisms, 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,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation is warning that H.R. 8404 could lead to nationwide recognition of polygamy, polyamory and child marriages. That’s because the language in the bill says all states must recognize a marriage if it is legal in any one state. (“An individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into,” the bill says.)
“There are upwards of 60,000 people practicing polygamy without legal recognition in the United States today,” the Heritage Foundation said in an analysis. “Public support for polygamy has more than tripled since 2010 to nearly one in four people today. In 2020, Utah reduced the criminal penalties for living in polygamous relationships to infraction status. Organizations such as the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, with support from Harvard Law School, are pushing for legalization of polyamorous unions.
“Two cities in Massachusetts, Somerville and Cambridge (home to Harvard University) have recently granted official Domestic Partnership status to plural unions,” the Heritage Foundation said. “Nothing in Obergefell prohibits any state legislature in the country from following Cambridge’s lead, nor does it prevent a state Supreme Court from imposing polyamory or polygamy by interpretation of its state constitution.”
URGENT ACTION: Please get in touch with Sens. Burr and Tillis and ask them to oppose the “Respect for Marriage Act.” It will destroy God’s design for the sacred institution. Let these Senators know that you want them to stand up for marriage and not acquiesce to pressures in favor of HR 8404 – The So-Called Respect for Marriage Act.
Senator Richard Burr: 202.224.3154
Senator Thom Tillis: 202.224.6342