Conservatives and faith leaders are sounding the alarm about a bill making its way through the lame-duck session of Congress – a controversial measure that would codify same-sex civil marriage in federal law.
Critics say the "Respect for Marriage Act" puts a giant target on people of faith and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is fighting to add an amendment that would protect religious freedom.
The bill would repeal the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" signed by President Bill Clinton, which affirms for federal purposes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and also permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
The bill passed a procedural vote in the Senate last week with the support of 50 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
But Sen. Mike Lee is urging his colleagues to attach his amendment to the bill before sending it to the House for a final vote and ultimately to Biden's desk.
We still have time to protect religious liberty. We’re asking our colleagues to support my amendment. pic.twitter.com/y7JXkxNXTZ
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 19, 2022
"My amendment would ensure that 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 or benefits, etc."
He added, "It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest conviction even outside of the church or home."
Supporters of the bill argue nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of same-sex marriage. However, Lee insists there needs to be explicit religious freedom protections.
He cites an exchange between Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in 2015 during the oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Alito asked whether religious universities opposed to same-sex marriage would lose their tax-exempt status, Verrilli replied, "It's certainly going to be an issue. I don't deny that. I don't deny that Justice Alito — it is going to be an issue."
Lee points out that it will be an issue if the so-called "Respect for Marriage Act" is signed by Biden.
"What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions," he wrote.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 16, 2022
Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation, agrees with Lee.
"This is a gratuitous swipe at people of faith that can't be recast as doing them a favor," he writes.
He adds, "Christians, Muslims, and Jews with sincere, historic, reasonable (and true) beliefs about human sexual morality and identity have been under accelerated attack by activists and government ever since the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Obergefell, despite assurances by same-sex marriage advocates that a 'live and let live' world would follow that decision."
"The proposed Respect for Marriage Act would supercharge these attacks," he continues. "The gestures toward religious liberty in the most recent version of the bill do not change this fact."
Conservative leaders are urging Americans to contact their senators before the bill is put to a final vote on Monday.
"We need prayer, and we need a miracle. Fortunately, our God can slay a giant with nothing more than a small stone," wrote Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.
"We know you are busy this week. It's Thanksgiving! The enemy knows this too – and he's hoping you will be too busy to say a prayer, send an email, and make a phone call. But these prayers, these phone calls, these emails: these are the small stones that will give God the opportunity to work a miracle," he added.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry is also urging Senate Republicans to vote no on the measure, saying he regrets supporting it in the House.
"Look, they're doing the same thing in the Senate that they did in the House," he told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday's "Washington Watch." "The bill did not come through committee in the House — it went directly to the floor. We didn't have a lot of information on it when they were calling for the vote."
Perry explained that he felt pressured to support the bill or be labeled a bigot.
"I had to vote almost immediately," he recalled. "And I calculated incorrectly. And maybe that's the best way to put it — that my long-standing support of traditional marriage would be understood, and I didn't want to vote against interracial marriage. And that's the same trick they're playing now."
Perry adds, "This [bill] actually destroys religious freedom and the ability to enforce religious freedom. And that's why they're doing this. So I want to encourage my friends on the Senate side of the building to not be fooled. Anything less than the Mike Lee amendment is going to be unacceptable."