The U.S. Senate voted on Nov. 16 to clear a key procedural hurdle and advance legislation protecting marriage equality. Since the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives this summer, it’s virtually guaranteed to become law soon. “The Respect for Marriage Act is a vital step in our nation’s march toward freedom without favor and equality without exception,” said AU President and CEO Rachel Laser.
Predictably, Christian nationalist groups are lying about what the Respect for Marriage Act really does.
The act requires all states and the federal government to recognize all valid marriages between same-sex and interracial couples. It also repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a law that barred the federal government from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples and permitted states to refuse to recognize them (although its effect had already been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court). Bottom line, this is an important and long-overdue piece of legislation that advances LGBTQ equality, racial justice and religious freedom for all.
What RMA Doesn’t Do
Here’s one thing the Respect for Marriage Act will not do: penalize people or religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage. Yet that didn’t stop the American Family Association from issuing a statement blaring, “The Respect for Marriage Act will be used by the IRS to strip Christian schools and universities of their nonprofit status. The Act will be used by the Biden administration to target as many Christian nonprofit organizations as possible.”
The Heritage Foundation echoed those claims, asserting, “Just months after Democrats used the Inflation Reduction Act to fund 87,000 new IRS agents, the Respect for Marriage Act would be giving those new agents carte blanche to harass and target religious schools and other faith-based entities that oppose same-sex marriage and eventually strip them of their tax-exempt status.”
That is utter fantasy. For starters, the Respect for Marriage Act includes language making it clear that no house of worship can be compelled to perform same-sex ceremonies. A separate provision explains that the bill does nothing to change religious colleges’ tax-exempt status.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, implied that the bill would change what’s taught in public schools, going so far as to assert that it will “paint a bullseye on the backs of concerned parents and people of faith who don’t want to see one more woke agenda item pushed through their local school.” Perkins is clearly grasping at straws – the bill says nothing about public schools.
The bill maintains the status quo
All this lurid talk about bullseyes and targets is nonsense. A bill that maintains the status quo of current law isn’t targeting anyone. In fact, the bill is explicit that people hold “[d]iverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage” and that “Congress affirms” that people and their diverse beliefs are “due proper respect.” At the same time, couples who have or will join in marriage deserve to have the dignity, stability and ongoing protection that marriage affords to families and children.
The Respect for Marriage Act is hardly radical. That’s why it won the support of 12 Republican senators, 47 Republican representatives, and even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Chrisitan nationalists are up to their tiresome tricks: lying and fearmongering. The American people should tune them out.
P.S. Some folks in the progressive community are wondering why Congress didn’t pass a law requiring all states to keep same-sex marriage legal no matter what the Supreme Court does. The short answer is that Congress doesn’t have that power, and a law like that would never have survived at the high court. Legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern has a great explainer here.