After vote, House sends Respect for Marriage Act to Biden for signature


WASHINGTON (CNS) — By a vote of 258 to 169, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act on Dec. 8 and sent it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Biden is expected to sign the bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

The president praised Congress for a measure that U.S. Catholic bishops and other faith leaders say fails to clearly protect the religious freedom of churches and individuals who believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

The House approved the measure by a wide margin in July, but had to vote again after the Senate passed an amended version Nov. 29 in a 61-36 vote.

A bride in New York stands in a park across from the Manhattan Marriage Bureau on November 18, 2021. (CNS Photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

Senate Democrats were joined by 12 Republicans who backed the bill after being pleased with an amendment they said would protect the rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

But after the move to the Senate, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth said he was “seriously disappointed.”

Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, said Dec. 1 that the measure “does not include clear, comprehensive, and affirmative conscience protections for religious organizations and individuals who uphold the sanctity of marriage. traditional which are necessary”.

Decades of social and legal developments “have torn sexuality, childbearing and marriage from one another in the public consciousness,” Bishop Barron said in a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Much of society has lost sight of the purpose of marriage and now equates it with adult companionship,” he said.

“We affirm our respect for the dignity of all who are engaged in this debate and recognize the differing perspectives in our civil society,” Bishop Barron added, “but the impact of this bill will only contribute to diminishing sanctity and integrity of marriage in our society.”

Ahead of the Senate vote, Bishop Barron joined Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Religious Liberty Committee, in reiterating the bishops’ “strong opposition” to what they called of “misnamed” measure.

In a joint Nov. 23 letter to all members of Congress, the presidents said they were writing “to implore Congress to backtrack” on the Respect for Marriage Act, also known as the RMA.

The letter said the bishops’ opposition to the legislation “in no way condones any hostility toward anyone experiencing same-sex attraction.”

“Catholic teaching on marriage is inseparable from Catholic teaching on the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. To attack one is to attack the other. Congress must have the courage to stand up for both,” the letter said.

The bill codifies the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges who found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It also protects interracial marriage.

In a Nov. 17 statement after the bill was introduced in the Senate, Cardinal Dolan called it “bad business for the many brave Americans of faith and faithlessness who continue to believe and stand for the truth about the wedding in the public square today”.

“It is deeply concerning that the US Senate voted in favor of the potential passage of the Respecting Marriage Act,” he said. “(It) does not strike a balance that appropriately respects our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious freedom.”

In their joint letter, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Barron said the “rejection by measure of timeless truths about marriage is evident on the face of it and in its focus.” They repeated the cardinal’s earlier point that it would “also betray our country’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious freedom.”

In a detailed analysis, the USCCB said the Respect for Marriage Act “will be used to argue that the government has a compelling interest in forcing religious organizations and individuals to treat same-sex civil marriages as valid.”

The amendment to the bill states that it “protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or federal law, including, but not limited to, the restoration of religious freedom, and prevent this bill from being used to diminish or repeal such protection”.

It also “confirms that non-profit religious organizations will not be required to provide any services, facilities or goods for the solemnization or solemnization of a marriage.”

But the USCCB analysis said that even with the amendment, “religious objectors are more likely to be denied exemptions under the First Amendment and RFRA in cases where they would have prevailed but for the adoption. of the RMA”.

The measure “would have a ripple effect that undermines religious freedom in all contexts where conflicts with same-sex marriage arise, not just in the context of compliance with the RMA itself,” the analysis says.

“Employment decisions, employee benefits, eligibility for grants or contracts, certification, tax exemptions – it all runs the gamut, even in religious liberty disputes arising from state or local laws,” said he added.

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