Twelve Republicans disregarded their constituents’ wishes and aided Democrats in deriding the First Amendment rights of religious Americans by passing the deceptively-named Respect For Marriage Act without including any of their colleagues’ proposed protective amendments.
Of the 12 Republicans who voted to advance the RFMA to a vote on the floor, three needed to change their minds before a final vote on the bill to keep the bill from passing. It is clear from the 61-36 vote on Tuesday night that Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana did not change their minds.
Instead of using amendments as prerequisites for their support, these Republicans opened the door for their congressional colleagues to reject three separate attempts to give the bill robust legal protections for religious Americans who believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
The RFMA as it stands doesn’t just repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between male and female, by codifying the Supreme Court’s approval of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. It goes further by enabling LGBT activists, who have already made a habit of exploiting the legal system to target religious Americans, and the politically motivated Department of Justice to bring civil action against anyone they say violates the terms of the legislation.
Under the guise of vague language, the RFMA could allow for the legal victimization of wedding vendors, adoption agencies, bakeries, and any other entities run by people of faith who refuse to offer services condoning same-sex marriage based on religious convictions.
Despite the RFMA’s problems, the 12 GOP senators echoed their support for the legislation by once again voting in favor of it.
For their willingness to cave to the Democrats’ agenda, those Republicans were thanked by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer from the Senate floor ahead of the vote.
“I also want to acknowledge my Republican colleagues who voted in favor of advancing this legislation. Because of our work together, the rights of tens of millions of Americans will be strengthened under federal law,” he said. “That’s an accomplishment we should all be proud of.”
Other Republican senators, however, understood the risks the RFMA poses to Americans and offered solutions in the form of amendments that sought to clarify the bill’s cushioned language.
Sen. Mike Lee put forth an amendment that explicitly stated that the federal government “shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction” that marriage is between one man and woman. The amendment would have also allowed anyone who is wrongfully targeted by the government over their beliefs about marriage to sue.
That amendment, which required 60 votes to be adopted, ultimately failed.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. James Lankford also introduced amendments designed to clarify language and ensure religious liberty protections for all Americans.
Lankford’s amendment guaranteed that the RFMA’s obscurity would not be wielded against organizations with traditional marriage beliefs. Rubio’s amendment eliminated the private right to sue from the RFMA.
Both amendments required a simple majority but failed.
Now that the RFMA has passed the Senate, the House is expected to vote on the updated bill as soon as this week.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who will likely assume the position of House speaker in January, told reporters early on Tuesday that he agrees with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) which says that the RFMA would “betray our country’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious liberty.”
“Catholic Bishops say religious protections in the Respect For Marriage Act are insufficient and far from comprehensive and treat religious liberty as a second-class right. As you know, that’s currently in the Senate. Do you agree with that assessment by the Catholic Bishops?” one reporter asked.
“I agree with them, yes,” McCarthy confirmed.
McCarthy’s willingness to signal strong opposition to the bill, which garnered support from 47 House Republicans earlier this year, shows that he is listening to conservative voters who overwhelmingly reject this legislation.