Republican Senator Mike Lee and 20 of his colleagues (Sen. Chuck Grassley did NOT sign the letter) are urging their Republican partners in the Senate who voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act to reconsider.
Twelve Republican Senators voted for the bill to make it through cloture, including Sen. Joni Ernst.
Lee’s letter to his colleagues opened by citing a quote from the Obergefell case when Justice Alito asked then-Solicitor General Donald Verrilli if states are required to recognize same-sex marriages, religious universities opposed to same-sex marriage would lose their tax-exempt status.
“General Verrilli replied…’it’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito, — it’s going to be an issue.'”
Lee’s letter said it is an issue.
“Obergefell did not make a private right of action for aggrieved individuals to sue those who oppose same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “It did not create a mandate for the Department of Justice to sue where it perceived an institution opposed same-sex marriage, but the Respect for Marriage Act will.”
Should the bill become law, Lee predicts more litigation against those institutions and individuals who are attempting to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions will be filed.
If Congress desires to codify Obergefell and protect same-sex marriages, Lee said it must do so in a way that resolves Alito’s question.
“Instead of subjecting churches, religious non-profits and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based non-profits,” Lee wrote. “As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance. No American should face legal harassment or retaliation from the federal government for holding sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
Lee has an amendment ready to offer. It would ensure federal bureaucrats do not take “discriminatory actions” against individuals, organizations, nonprofits and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.
“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,” Lee wrote.
Lee was joined by the following Senators: