Same-sex marriage. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin; AP

The Marriage Battle in America: Religious Freedom in Danger

If approved, the Respect for Marriage Act” (RMA) would not only codify at the level of Federal Law the 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling, in which the Supreme Court ordered the recognition of “marriage between same sex persons” throughout the United States, but would also open the door to the legalization of polygamy.

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(ZENIT News – The Daily Compass / Rome, 25.09.2022).- It’s been called the “Respect for Marriage Act”(RMA) a bill that, despite its name, as is the custom for the politically (and linguistically) correct, hopes to give the coup de grace to marriage in the United States, while at the same time putting religious liberty and freedom of conscience in serious danger. If approved, the RMA would not only codify at the level of Federal Law the 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling, in which the Supreme Court ordered the recognition of “marriage between persons of the same sex” throughout the United States, but would also open the door to the legalization of polygamy. In fact, the text states that any state of the United States must recognize “marriage between two persons” contracted in other Federal States, regardless of “sex, race, ethnic group or national origin.” Moreover, in regard to smoothing the way for polygamous unions, the Federal Administration would be obliged  to recognize any marriage (real or presumed) if “it’s valid in the State [for the purposes of the text, these means the whole of the United States in addition to Puerto Rico, ed.]”

In fact, that bill would have no hope of being approved if the Republican Party united to reject it. But therein lies the problem. The H.R. 8404 was approved in the House on July 19 of this year, with no less than 47 Republicans (over one fifth of the congressmen of the Grand Old Party – GOP), who added their vote to that of the Democrats, who already had the majority necessary for its approval. The 47 took advantage of the fact that their fellow Republicans and leaders in the House (Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise) had left the vote free.

The RMA must now go to the Senate, where the two Parties are at present in a substantial draw, and the Democrats need to get 10 votes among the Republicans to be sure to reach the anti-system threshold  (60 out of 100, namely, a three-fifths majority ) in the Congress’ upper chamber. Will they succeed? It’s known that at least four Republican Senators support the RMA explicitly or implicitly: Susan Collins, Lisa  Murkowski, Thom Tillis and Rob Portman. A possible fifth Senator, Ron Johnson, after the protests of some conservative media and pro-family groups in what seemed to be support for the RMA, made it clear since then that he wouldn’t approve it “in its present state.” I

It’s, in fact, the mobilization in favour or against the RMA, which could turn out to be decisive for the bill’s fate. Over the last few days, there have been two initiatives of an opposite tenor, addressed to Senators, especially of the GOP. More than 400 personalities, who called themselves “Republicans and conservatives” — from the Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, to Barbara, daughter of former President George Walker Bush, to Pennsylvania’s Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, and Colorado’s candidate Joe O’Dea –, have signed a letter requesting the approval of the Law of Respect of Marriage and “reaffirm that marriage for gays and lesbians is an established law.”

Let us recall that in the concurrent opinion written by Clarence Thomas on the historic Dobbs ruling in 2022, the Supreme Court Judge expressed the need to reconsider some of the controversial precedents, including the Obergefell case. The Democratic proposal thus intends to deactivate the new danger for its own ideological front, that is, that — after the Constitutional right to abortion, invented by Roe vs. Wade, the so-called right to “gay marriage” should also be annulled. 

However, as already mentioned, the RMA goes beyond the 2015 ruling, which enabled Obama light up the White House with the LGBT rainbow. This was denounced by some 2,000 ministers of worship and religious leaders of multiple Protestant denominations, who pointed out in a letter to Senators that their own vision of marriage between a man and a woman, open to life and stemming from an “eternal truth,” must “not be erased or punished.” The petitioners pointed out that, as opposed to the Obergefell ruling, where respect is preserved (at least) for those that defend the marital union between a man and a woman, the Democrats’ bill intends to denigrate and blame those that adhere to the principle of marriage as part of natural morality. 

In fact, the RMA foresees that both the Attorney General as well as persons that feel aggrieved can present civil lawsuits  against those that do not acknowledge marriage “between two persons,” including if it’s a homosexual union. This means that organizations that run, for example, foster care and adoption services, as well as other religious services operating in the social ambit in collaboration with the State, and even simple businesses and entrepreneurs  (think of the numerous judicial prosecutions of recent years against florists, photographers, confectioners, etc.) “can be faced with litigations simply for practicing their faith.” Tax authorities could also deprive non-profit religious organizations of tax exemption, again because they only acknowledge marriage between a man and a woman. 

And the Catholic Church? Already in July, the United States Episcopal Conference  — through Archbishops Salvatore Cordileone and William Lori — wrote a letter to the congressmen of the House of Representatives asking them not to approve the bill on marriage equality and, a few days later, Archbishop Cordileone renewed the American Episcopate’s exhortation with a missive to the Senate. The intervention of Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler was also decisive. He pointed out the “parody” of the RMA, explaining that it is “a flagrant negation of God’s plan for humanity and poses a great danger to us.” 

It’s difficult to say how it will end. The mobilization, however, is having some effect. If at first the Senate’s Democrat leader Chuck Schumer said he wanted to bring the bill to the floor already in September, after learning that the vote on the text would be postponed until after the mid-term elections, apparently to allow Republicans more inclined to vote for the text to be able to delay it, without being onesided, to come out unscathed from the discontent of their voters. Political games, hence, which do not calm things down, given also the fact that the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell has yet to express his party’s position. 

Meanwhile, the bipartisan partisans of the RMA are working on amendments to explain that the text does not allow polygamy or undermine the freedom of religion and conscience. However, this might not be sufficient, as Life Site News reminds, given the activism of some judges. In any case, the underlying issue will continue to be the recognition  — by a Federal Law – of a “marriage” that isn’t such. And that, far from a neutral expansion of “rights,” would constrict freedom based on truth.

This translation into Spanish of an article published originally in Italian, was made by ZENIT’s Editorial Director. Virginia M. Forrester translate it into English.

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