A Republican amendment that aims to strengthen religious liberty protections in the “Respect for Marriage” Act has been blocked by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The act, which would require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, advanced from the Senate to the House on November 29 following a 61–36 vote, with 12 Republicans voting in favor. Texas Senators John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R) voted against the bill.
House Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) then offered an amendment prohibiting the federal government from retaliating against any individual or organization that opposes same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds.
On Monday, the Democrat-controlled House Rules Committee held a hearing on the amendment. Committee chairman, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), refused to allow the amendment to advance to the House floor.
He explained that Democrats want to pass the act during the current lame-duck session of Congress before Republicans assume control of the House in January.
“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.”
Rep. Roy’s amendment was identical to one proposed in the Senate by Mike Lee (R-UT), which did not pass. Roy criticized the House Rules Committee for pushing a bill to the floor without allowing it to be amended or debated.
“Congress will vote to redefine marriage and hand LGBTQ activists a legislative sword to freely swing at innocent Americans” who hold “millennia-old religious beliefs,” he said.
Because members of Congress were not allowed to debate the proposed amendment in a single committee hearing or hear from witnesses, they “will be forced to vote up or down on a bill that they were not allowed to amend or even serious[ly] debate,” stated Roy.
McGovern told Republicans that while they may challenge the effort to codify same-sex marriage when they take control of the House, Democrats will fight back.
“You can bring one amendment after another to reverse the last 70 years of social progress,” he said. “We will oppose you on that.”
The Respect for Marriage Act has received backlash from conservatives who say it threatens the religious freedom of those who hold to the traditional view of marriage.
If passed, the bill will allow people to sue people of faith who disagree with same-sex marriage — particularly “religious nonprofits, tax-exempt organizations, adoption agencies, and religious schools,” Severino claimed.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill — sans Roy’s amendment — this week.