AFN has reported the U.S. Senate, on Wednesday, advanced the Respect for Marriage Act thanks to key votes from 12 Republicans who helped the legislation overcome a procedural vote. Now a final vote can come literally any day although that vote is expected to be delayed by the holiday season.
Justice Thomas alarmed the libs
The controversial federal legislation is not new. An earlier version first appeared on Capitol Hill during the Clinton administration, and the Obama administration supported it, too. But urgency to pass the legislation came this summer after Justice Clarence Thomas mentioned the Obergefell ruling in his concurring opinion in the Dobbs case. From a legal standpoint, Thomas argued, the Obergefell decision deserves to be revisited, too, on the basis of its dubious due process and equal protection claims.
Thomas’s mention of Obergefell set off alarm bells on Capitol Hill, where Democrats had already witnessed their revered Roe ruling get overturned. Now the court’s longest-serving justice, who is hated by the Left, was openly suggesting a landmark ruling in favor of homosexual rights deserved the same fate.
So by mid-July, four weeks after the Dobbs decision was released, the U.S. House had passed H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act.
Bill authorizes DOJ to prosecute
According to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who introduced the bill, the Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed and signed into law in 1996, and it requires states to recognize marriages that were performed in other states.
More tellingly, Rep. Nadler’s press release further states:
The bill prohibits any person acting under color of state law from denying full faith and credit to an out of state marriage based on the sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage, provides the Attorney General with the authority to pursue enforcement actions, and creates a private right of action for any individual harmed by a violation of this provision.
Using the U.S. attorney general to prosecute? Prosecute who? And a “private right of action” to sue? What specifically does that mean?
In an alarming op-ed, published yesterday by AFN, Suzanne Bowdey of the Family Research Council helpfully explains the bill states the U.S. attorney general can bring “civil action” in a federal district court for anyone who violates the federal law. Regarding the term “private right of action,” that means Americans can sue other Americans if they feel “harmed” by them, including by someone’s unwelcomed biblical beliefs, she points out.
Those types of lawsuits are not new, of course, since Christian bakers, photographers, and florists have been sued in the courts for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings, but passage of the Respect for Marriage Act would mean federal law sides with the plaintiff who sues a business owner, Christian school, adoption agency, and non-profit charity.
Is 'solemnization' only for church weddings?
As far as whose religious rights remain protected if the bill becomes federal law, Bowdey points to a key paragraph cited by Republican backers that promises a First Amendment-protected bubble for churches and nonprofits. But far down in that paragraph, she writes, the actual language – “for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage” – gives the game away about the bill’s narrowly defined legal protection.
“What this phrase means is that outside of an actual wedding ceremony,” Bowdey ominously warns, “the freedom of every American would be cut off at the knees, including Bible-believing adoption agencies, women’s shelters, ministries, religious schools, and charities.”
In a statement to AFN, Alliance Defending Freedom general counsel Kristen Waggoner delivers a similar warning. The bill gives “lip service” to religious beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, she says, while also undermining those same beliefs that are protected by the First Amendment.
The “solemnization” phrase has been noticed by the other side, too, such as homosexual activists and left-wing legal scholars. At the same time groups such as ADF and FRC are warning about religious liberty, the other side is complaining online the bill as written still allows “discrimination" in the name of religious liberty.
Waggoner, meanwhile, predicts making the bill a federal laws means anyone is a target of the federal government if they don’t share the federal government’s approved beliefs on marriage and the definition of equality.
"But it will not end there," she warns. "When we undermine the First Amendment rights of our neighbors, we harm ourselves.”
As far as Christians being forced to ignore their faith, the federal government will learn that is not going to happen, predicts Abraham Hamilton III, general counsel at the American Family Association.
“The reality is this: Christians cannot abide by any law that would compel us to sin,” he told the AFR “Today’s Issues” program. “That is the simple reality.”