12 Republicans Join Democrats to Rush Marriage Bill: 'Devastating Blow to Religious Freedom'
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The Senate is fast-tracking a bill that could deny religious freedom for individuals and faith-based organizations.
On Thursday, 12 Senate Republicans joined with their Democratic colleagues to move the "Respect for Marriage Act" forward. A final vote is expected this month.
The bill would repeal the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" signed by President Bill Clinton, which affirms for federal purposes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and also permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
Senate Democrats are working quickly to pass the bill while their party still controls the House during the post-election lame duck session. That's because the incoming Republican House majority is not expected to be receptive to the issue next year.
Although Senate supporters say the bill protects religious freedom, leading advocates say otherwise.
The Religious Freedom Institute warned this week that the bill "would deal a devastating blow to religious freedom in America."
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp cautioned that the bill only pays "lip service" to religious liberty while undermining it by requiring the federal government to recognize any type of marriage that a state has deemed legal.
Conservative religious groups like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints support the legislation, as does the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).
CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra calls it a "carefully crafted" bill that includes "non-retaliation language that ensures this legislation cannot be used by state and federal agencies to punish religious organizations for their sincerely held beliefs."
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) disputed that thinking on the Senate floor Wednesday, citing numerous loopholes that could spell disaster for faith-based groups and questioning why Democrats refused to consider amendments.
David Trimble, the RFI vice president for public policy, told CBN News he faulted the Senate and the House for bypassing committee action on the bill, noting that as of September, only 30 of the 4,805 bills introduced in the 117th Congress have made it to the Senate floor without committee work.
"If it's so important," he questioned, "doesn't it deserve standard deliberative process? It's disconcerting."
Bill supporter Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said the legislation protects clergy that don't want to provide same-sex wedding services as well as the tax-exempt status of religious non-profits.
But on Wednesday, religious freedom advocates like the Southern Baptists said it doesn't go far enough.
The Southern Baptist public policy arm, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) argued that the bill doesn't offer "meaningful protection for those that maintain a traditional view of marriage" as they serve their communities outside of wedding ceremonies.
In a statement on Wednesday, President Biden promised to sign the bill once it is passed.
"Love is love and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love," Biden said.
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