Bias Watch

Conservatives are having a bad day after the Senate passed the marriage equality bill

Ted Cruz's daughter disagrees with his politics
Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz Photo: Shutterstock

Conservatives are having a bad day with the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) set to become law.

The Senate voted in favor of the RFMA in a 61-36 vote on Tuesday night. It now goes back to the House of Representatives for another vote because it was amended in the Senate. The House is expected to pass the bill as early as next Tuesday. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it.

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council, released a statement saying that the RFMA “invites ‘predatory lawsuits’ against people of faith, stigmatizes biblical values, and drives Christians from the public square.”

Perkins also said that the 12 Republicans who voted for the bill “are literally putting a target on their base and driving them out of political engagement.”

He added, “This bill is a club, with which the Left will attempt to beat people of orthodox faith — who believe in marriage as God designed it and history has defined — into submission.”

Perkins has argued that “homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men.” He believes that the Bible commands Christians to kill gay people and has urged his followers to pray against any expansion of LGBTQ civil rights.

Ryan Bangert, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for the anti-LGBTQ legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) wrote, “This dangerously cynical and completely unnecessary bill is a direct attack on the First Amendment…. It undermines religious freedom everywhere and exposes Americans throughout the country to predatory lawsuits by activists seeking to use the threat of litigation to silence debate and exclude people of faith from the public square.”

The ADF said that the Senate version of the bill should’ve allowed Republican amendments that would’ve carved out religious exceptions in order to provide legal protections for religion-based anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The ADF regularly files lawsuits against LGBTQ civil rights legislation.

In a misleading Wednesday morning tweet, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote, “Not only does the so-called Respect for Marriage Act open the door for a weaponized IRS to target religious non-profits, but it will start a race to the bottom, forcing the most extreme marriage laws from any state onto every other state.”

Twenty U.S. states currently allow children of any age to be married to adults. Texas, Cruz’s home state, allows emancipated minors age 16 and up to get married. The RFMA doesn’t change this fact since the age of marriage is set by state law.

It’s not clear how religious non-profits will be targeted since the law doesn’t even mention the IRS.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who voted against the bill, said, “What it really does is silences any individual who may disagree and discourages any faith-based entity from cooperating with government, to be able to say, if you want to partner with the state in any area, you probably aren’t welcome because you don’t share the same beliefs.”

The RFMA will not end the First Amendment.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) wrote, “The entire @HouseGOP should vote ‘no’ on a bill that demonstrably exposes Americans to persecution for closely held religious beliefs, in addition to attacking marriage. #StandUpForAmerica.”

On Wednesday, the Heritage Foundation, which spent $1.3 million on ads attacking the RFMA over Thanksgiving weekend, retweeted several messages, including one referring to the supportive Republican senators as “losers” and one that claims the RFMA offers “no meaningful protections for our first freedom.”

Noelle Garnier of National Religious Broadcasters wrote, “As Christians we believe that the family and marriage are the bedrock of a strong society. It’s heartbreaking to see so many lawmakers agree and concur that the traditional view of marriage and family has no place in U.S. policy.”

The RFMA would officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that forbade the federal government from legally recognizing same-sex marriages. In its place, the act would require the federal and state governments to recognize same-sex marriages as long as they occur in states where they are legal. If any state refuses to recognize such marriages, the act says, the spouses can sue.

Despite these right-wingers’ worries, a revised version of the bill submitted earlier this month guarantees to uphold all “religious liberty and conscience protections” currently defined by federal law. It states that no individual or group will be forced to “solemnize” same-sex marriages and that the legislation will threaten no individual or group’s tax-exempt status.

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