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Texas Lawmakers React to Marriage Bill

Government

President Joe Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act | Image by Getty Images

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which will require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal and includes similar protection for interracial marriages.

The act formally repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which legally defined marriage as between one man and one woman. President Biden is expected to sign it into law Tuesday afternoon.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House in a 258-169-1 vote, with 39 Republicans joining all Democrats in support. The Senate passed the bill 61-36 last week, with 12 Republican senators crossing party lines to vote in its favor, as reported by The Dallas Express.

Supporters of the bill hailed it as a safety net if the Supreme Court reverses a 2015 ruling guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry.

“I’m proud to vote today to say that love is love,” Democratic Texas Congressman Colin Allred said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “No matter who you are, where you live and no matter what [a] future extreme, out of touch Supreme Court may say.”

A vote on the House bill back in July passed with 47 Republicans supporting the legislation, including Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales, the only Texas Republican to vote in favor of the bill Thursday. Gonzales’ office did not return a request for comment as of this article’s publication.

Following the first vote in the House, the bill hit a snag in the Senate, and Democrats pushed votes on the legislation back until after the November midterm elections.

Since then, a bipartisan group of senators introduced an amendment to the House bill to add safeguards for religious liberty.

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), ensures that religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the facilitation of same-sex marriages. It also explicitly ensures the bill will not deny or alter benefits or tax-exempt status of religious schools, churches, or organizations.

Additionally, the amendment clarifies that the bill will not allow the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages.

Some Texas Republicans have been outspoken against the bill, arguing that it would allow the IRS to target religious institutions and that the amendment does not do enough to protect people who fear litigation or government retaliation for their belief in traditional marriage.

Republican Texas Congressman Chip Roy introduced a separate religious liberty amendment ahead of the House vote, initially introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Roy’s amendment was blocked in the Rules committee last week, allowing the House vote to proceed, as reported by The Dallas Express. Roy expressed frustration and concern that the act would infringe on religious liberties after the bill’s passage.

“It’s an absolute abomination with respect to what it’s going to mean for religious liberty,” Roy said of the bill ahead of the vote. “The 12 Senate Republicans who voted for it in the Senate are either stupid or deceitful, because you can’t possibly tell me that that’s actually going to protect religious liberty for the American people around the country.”

Republican Texas Congressman Pete Sessions said in the Rules committee that he was worried the act could allow private citizens or the federal government to file lawsuits against religious organizations.

Sessions said Democrats assured Republicans that the bill is primarily about messaging and will not allow private lawsuits.

“I’ll take them at their word,” Sessions said.

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