Senate Advances Same-Sex Marriage Bill, Will Consider Several Religious Liberty Amendments

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 4: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks next to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) during a news conference to introduce their proposal for an overhaul of the tax code, March 4, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. One part of the plan proposes to reduce seven tax …
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The U.S. Senate further advanced the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” on Monday night but agreed to vote on religious liberty amendments pitched by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), James Lankford (R-OK), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Senators voted 61-35 to end debate on a bipartisan amendment to the same-sex marriage bill that purports to protect religious liberty — although faith advocates say the amendment does nothing to shield Americans who have a traditional view of marriage from being targeted under the law. The 12 GOP Senators who initially voted with Democrats to advance the legislation on November 16 once again sided with Democrats.

The results came after the voting window was held open for nearly two-and-a-half hours. The delay occurred because senators were bartering “over whether additional amendments could come up for a vote and waited on the votes of three Republicans who had earlier this month voted to advance the broader bill,” according to The Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced at the end of the roll call vote that the Senate will vote on Lee’s amendment (which needs 60 votes to pass), as well as Lankford’s and Rubio’s amendments (which need 50 votes to pass) on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. Then the Senate will hold a fourth vote to pass the Respect for Marriage Act as amended. The bill needs 60 votes to pass.

The “Respect for Marriage Act” was introduced following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, due to Democrats’ unfounded concerns that the Supreme Court could use the Dobbs decision to overrule the Court’s Obergefell gay marriage decisionThe measure passed the House in July with the help of 47 Republicans, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to postpone a vote until after the midterms.

Overall, the bill would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and would require the federal government to recognize any marriage that was “valid in the place where entered into.” The bill would additionally require every state to recognize every same-sex marriage that “is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into.”

The bill also has a “private right of action” clause, which would allow “any person who is harmed by a violation of subsection (b)…[to] bring a civil action in the appropriate district court of the United States against the person who violated such a subsection for declaratory and injunctive relief.” Likewise, attorneys general would be able to bring civil action against any person who violates the law.

“It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest convictions even outside of their church or home,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers last week. 

Following Monday’s vote, Lee expressed disappointment at the 61-35 vote on the toothless religious liberty amendment but seemed optimistic about his amendment going up for a vote. 

“Bad news: The RFMA—without sufficient protections for religious liberty—just progressed further in the Senate,” he wrote on social media. “Good news: There’s still time to adopt my amendment and protect the religious liberties enshrined in the First Amendment.”

Two of the 12 Republican Senators who voted to advance the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act,” Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), announced over the weekend that they would support Lee’s religious liberty amendment.

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