Thursday, November 24, 2022

Some Conservatives Weigh In On The Respect For Marriage Act

 A week ago I posted how aghast I was over the LDS Church issuing a statement expressing support for the Respect for Marriage Act, a proposed federal law that would not only provide official federal recognition for gay marriage (arguably unnecessary given that it is recognized under a U.S. Supreme Court decision) but whatever other abomination that is coming down the pike. Part of the explanation given for supporting the Act was that it included "appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters." But, as I pointed out, that was incorrect: there are no such protections in the text of the bill. 

    I have since found that there was a proposed amendment to the bill (SA 6487) which includes specific protections for religious institutions, to wit: such organizations "shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action," as well as protecting their tax exempt status. In addition, the proposed Amendment would prohibit federal recognition of polygamous/polymerous marriages. 

    That's nice for religious institutions, but it doesn't do anything to protect bakers, photographers, and the rest of us. Moreover, it is not clear that the proposed Amendment will be part of the final bill. A November 19, 2022, article from The Daily Signal was urging senators to support what sounds like the same Amendment, which suggests that the Amendment was not (yet) accepted. I would note that, per the same article, there were 12 GOP senators that supported the unamended Act--i.e., without the religious protections--including Mitt Romney. I wish Utahans would wipe the dust of his abode from their feet.

    But as I said, even if the protections for religious institutions is incorporated into the final bill, it still leaves the rest of us hanging in the wind. In "The ‘Respect For Marriage Act’ Is An Exercise In Tyranny, And Everyone Knows It," John Daniel Davidson warns:

    What will happen is this: Christians, Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who dares maintain that marriage is a lifelong conjugal union between one man and one woman — the definition of marriage for thousands of years until the U.S. Supreme Court descended from Mount Sinai with Obergefell v. Hodges inscribed on stone tablets — will be branded a bigot and driven from the public square and marketplace.

    Anyone who owns a small business related to the wedding industry — photographers, bakers, website designers, venue owners, caterers, florists — will be sued into oblivion if they refuse services to same-sex couples. Religious colleges and universities will lose their tax-exempt status. Religious institutions of every kind, if they hold to their teachings and traditions about marriage, will face an onslaught from the Department of Justice and the federal bureaucracy. 

Davidson recommends reading an article by Roger Severino that critiques various excuses why the GOP traitors supported the bill and explains why it won't protect religious institutions' "free exercise" of religion, why it won't protect their tax exempt status, and why it won't protect them from having licenses, grants, or accreditation revoked. An excerpt:

    Claim No. 1: Because the bill’s findings characterize beliefs in man-woman marriage as worthy of respect, the legislation would provide religious institutions legally significant protections against being treated by government as the equivalent of bigots.

    Response: False. First, the issue is not the ability to believe in man-woman marriage, but the ability to live out those beliefs meaningfully in society and not be labeled a bigot by the government for doing so.

    Respect for mere beliefs in man-woman marriage gets people of faith little in this context. But more fundamentally, the bill doesn’t go even that far. It reads:

Diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises. Therefore, Congress affirms that such people and their diverse beliefs are due proper respect. 
Here is an accurate translation: “Diverse but wholly unspecified beliefs about the role of gender in marriage (whatever that means) are held by acceptable people based on acceptable premises. Therefore, such acceptable people who hold acceptable beliefs about marriage are due an acceptable level of respect.”

    It is hard to imagine crafting a more legally meaningless statement than that. The bill’s sponsors took great pains to avoid saying precisely what the bill’s defenders erroneously claim.

    Nowhere in the bill do the terms conjugal marriage, traditional marriage, biological marriage, biblical marriage, natural marriage, historical marriage, husband-wife marriage, man-woman marriage, or any other possible variation appear .

    Yet the bill does say some things quite clearly and explicitly—namely, “same-sex couples … deserve to have the dignity, stability, and ongoing protection that marriage affords to families and children.” Now a statement like that does some real legal work, but in precisely the opposite direction.

Frankly the Church should have been cognizant of the different between belief and practice because the exact same dichotomy was used by the U.S. Supreme Court against the Church over a century ago to justify why the Church members could be free to believe in plural marriage but not free to practice it: that the First Amendment only protected religious beliefs and not practices.

    Also check out Rod Dreher's piece, "Respect For Marriage Act: An Imprudent Compromise." There is too much in his piece to unpack here, but he makes a powerful case that the GOP supports these bills (or, at best, provide only a weak and tepid opposition) because they simply don't care about these issues. Notwithstanding Reagan bringing social conservatives into the fold of the Republican party in the 1980s, its leadership are still--still, decades after--country club Republicans whose only concern is protecting big business and have, by and large, rejected the social conservatives that form such a large bloc of their voters. 


  1. There are two glaring omissions in the "Respect for Marriage Act" bill. It doesn't recognize polygamous marriages, and it doesn't recognize interspecies marriage.

    1. The language of the bill would allow for both provided that some state were to recognize such marriages. The amendment discussed above would not extend recognition to the polygamous marriages, but is silent about the other. I'm sure that, what with the spread of polyamorous relationships, it won't be too long before we see such marriages recognized somewhere since all the same arguments in favor of gay marriage apply to polygamy/polyamory as well.

    2. The way I read the bills (HR 8404, 4556, SA 6787), polygamous marriages and interspecies marriages, even if sanctioned by one or more states, are outside the scope of these bills. But, as a practical matter, the rule of law is dead and interspecies and polygamous marriages would be deemed enforceable if practiced by people of the correct political persuasion.


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