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2,000 Churches and Christian Ministries Ask Senate to Oppose ‘Respect for Marriage Act’

On September 13, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal defense group, sent a letter on behalf of 2,000 “pastors, ministers of faith, and leaders of religious nonprofit organizations” asking the U.S. Senate to oppose the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act,” H.R. 8404.

The Respect for Marriage Act, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 19 by a vote of 267 to 157.

The Senate could take up the measure as soon as September 19.

According to the ADF letter, the Act puts churches and ministries in danger of injustice simply because they hold a biblical definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

There are several ways in which ADF says the Respect for Marriage Act will impact churches and ministries:

  • First, other groups will be allowed to file lawsuits against Christian ministries who provide services in concert with state governments, such as foster care.
  • Second, if passed, the Respect for Marriage Act would require all states to recognize any one state’s definition of marriage no matter what that definition may be, including polygamous situations or relationships of adults with minors.
  • Third, Congress would authorize the Internal Revenue Service to strip the tax-exempt status from a church or Christian ministry who holds a biblical view of marriage.

“Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, we have continued to see attacks on people of faith for adhering to their religious beliefs about marriage—just as the justices who dissented predicted,” ADF senior counsel Ryan Tucker said in a statement. 

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The Obergefell decision decided by a 5-4 vote in 2015 is commonly understood to have recognized the right to same-sex marriage and prohibited state laws banning same-sex unions.

“Despite claims from its supporters that religious liberty will be protected, the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ would only further hostility against churches and ministries and the millions of Americans who hold decent and honorable beliefs about marriage,” he added.

This letter is the second sent to the Senate by ADF. 

In July, after the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, ADF penned a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from Christian ministries such as the Heritage Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Family Research Council.

That letter pointed out that the law had been “rushed through the House without any public hearings or input.”

The Act “aims to shut down any disagreement, silencing those with the long-held conviction that marriage between one man and one woman is essential to human flourishing, a view that has existed from the dawn of time,” the letter continued.

The new act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law in 1996 by Democratic President Bill Clinton. It provided states which didn’t wish to recognize same-sex marriage with some protection. DOMA was struck down in Obergefell.

Some have argued that the Respect for Marriage Act is needed because of Justice Clarence Thomas’ comments in a concurring opinion in the Dobbs case where he said the Supreme Court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell … Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous.’”

No other justices joined Thomas’ concurring opinion.

Editor’s Note:  MinistryWatch writer Kim Roberts is also an ADF affiliated attorney.

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.