House Democrats this week blocked an amendment to a same-sex marriage bill that would have added religious liberty protections for Christians and people of other religions who believe marriage is the union of one man, one woman.
The amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act, offered by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), would have prevented the federal government from taking "any discriminatory action against a person" due to their religious or moral beliefs about marriage. The amendment would have prevented discrimination in employment, education, benefits, entitlements, grants, contracts, loans, scholarships, certification and accreditation, among other categories.
Rep. James McGovern, the Democratic House Rules Committee Chairman, blocked the amendment on Monday, saying it could prevent the passage of the bill, which will codify same-sex marriage into federal law. The bill previously passed the Senate.
"If we were to amend this, and it goes back to the Senate, for all intents and purposes, it's dead for the year," McGovern said.
The amendment was similar to one offered by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) in the Senate.
"Unless amended, the so-called Respect for Marriage Act will fundamentally alter the relationship between faithful Americans and the federal government," Roy warned. "... This amendment should be a no-brainer for every single House Republican, and every American should know whether their representative believes they should be punished for a religious belief."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released an analysis of the bill, saying the current version threatens religious liberty.
The USCCB analysis listed three ways the bill imperils religious liberty:
- "The IRS could revoke the tax exemptions of religious organizations that practice traditional beliefs about marriage.
- "Government agencies could exclude religious schools from eligibility for public benefits and programs like scholarships and school choice vouchers.
- "Government agencies could exclude religious organizations from access to or use of public facilities or property."
The Respect for Marriage Act allows lawsuits against those who break the law, saying the "Attorney General may bring a civil action in the appropriate United States district court against any person who violates," the text says. The bill also says, "any person who is harmed by a violation … may bring a civil action in the appropriate United States district court against the person who violated such subsection for declaratory and injunctive relief."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ak Phuong
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-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.