In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges imposed same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Seven years later, the matter of marriage has surged back into the center of public debate, this time prompted by House passage of the “Respect for Marriage Act.” The Senate is expected to act in the coming days.
On Tuesday, I joined more than 80 leaders in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and all Republican senators urging them to oppose the bill, which would codify same-sex marriage into federal law. The letter shows how the ill-named “Respect for Marriage Act” is far more extreme than Obergefell. It paves the way for even more radical expansions of the legal definition of marriage. It encourages lawsuits against proponents of natural marriage. It encourages IRS penalties against organizations committed to natural marriage.
This law would punish the tens of millions of honorable Americans who embrace, on grounds of faith, reason, and nature, the ancient truth claim that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. The law represents a growing conviction on the American Left that such people are not honorable, and that they are haters and bigots who must be driven from our public life.
This law would intentionally subject such Americans, and the tens of thousands of religious institutions they represent, to ruinous lawsuits in federal courts. This tragic result would not only be unjust. It would undermine the most dynamic and compassionate non-governmental civil society in history, one comprised of the entire spectrum of American religions – from Jewish schools, to Muslim health clinics, to Christian homes for the aged and dying, to countless others that bring hope for the marginalized and the desperate. Those who devote their lives to these ministries are lovers, not haters.
Equally tragic, the law would destroy a pillar of our democracy, the American idea that free and equal citizens, not governments, should decide what constitutes public virtue and morality. Those Americans and their institutions who embrace marriage as the union of one man and one woman are constitutionally entitled to the free exercise of their religion. This does not mean that they are entitled to prevail. It does mean that the state-imposed moral code embedded in this law represents a dangerous step away from democracy, and toward totalitarianism.
Read the full letter here.
Tom Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute