House Democrats have blocked a Republican amendment that would have strengthened religious liberty protections in the Respect for Marriage Act, a bipartisan bill that would require the federal government to recognize all marriages, including same-sex marriages, that are legal in the state where they took place.
The House Rules Committee held a hearing Monday afternoon on an amendment offered by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, that would have prohibited the federal government from retaliating against any individual or organization that opposes same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds. Committee Chairman Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., refused to allow Roy’s amendment to advance to the House floor, explaining that Democrats want to pass the Respect for Marriage Act during the lame-duck session of Congress before Republicans take over the House next year.
“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. “And many of us believe that we have a court right now that is hellbent on trying to reverse the rights for the LGBTQ community, and we do not trust them to respect marriage equality in this country.”
The bipartisan marriage legislation is a result of a months-long push by Democrats to codify same-sex marriage amid fears the Supreme Court might reverse its Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Those fears, which Republicans assert are unfounded, are based on a lone Supreme Court opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas in June in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Thomas said the court should “reconsider” its precedent on the issue.
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No other justices joined Thomas. But that opinion became a major campaign issue for Democrats and spurred lawmakers of both parties to craft legislation that would require states to recognize same-sex marriage in case that precedent eventually falls.
To that end, the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act in a bipartisan vote of 61 to 36 last week. The Senate bill included language that purportedly protects religious liberty and instructs that nonprofit religious organizations “shall not be required to provide services” to a marriage it opposes, but conservatives have called those protections “severely anemic.” House Democrats are now setting up a vote on the bill without amendment.
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Roy’s proposal was identical to one offered in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., that had bipartisan support but did not pass. The congressman expressed frustration that the House would not be permitted an opportunity to debate and vote on his amendment.
“Later this week, Congress will vote to redefine marriage and hand LGBTQ activists a legislative sword to freely swing at innocent Americans. Yet, before today, not a single committee held a hearing, heard from witnesses, or deliberated the details of this legislation. Instead, members of Congress will be forced to vote up or down on a bill that they were not allowed to amend or even serious debate,” Roy told Fox News.
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“No free American should have to live in constant threat of having their life upended and ruined in court for holding millennia-old religious beliefs. Further, every American deserves to know whether their representative wants the federal government to target people of faith.”
Roy voiced his concerns to the Rules committee on Monday, but they fell on deaf ears.
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McGovern told Republicans on the committee that when they assume control of the House in January, “you can bring one amendment after another to reverse the last 70 years of social progress.”
“We will oppose you on that,” he added.
Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.