Conservative leaders are calling on senators to reject the House-passed, which aims to codify into federal law the Supreme Court’s 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“The Act, which was suddenly rushed through the House without any public hearings or input, is an attack on millions of Americans, particularly people of faith, who believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” wrote more than 80 conservative leaders, along with the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, in a Tuesday to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The letter writers believe the bill would threaten the religious freedom rights of individuals and groups across the nation if it becomes law.
While the bill “does nothing to change the status of, or benefits afforded to, same-sex marriage in light of Obergefell, it does much to endanger people of faith,” they wrote.
The signers include Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom; Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation; Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council; Craig DeRoche, president and CEO of the Family Policy Alliance; and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
The authors of the letter noted that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito correctly predicted the Obergefell ruling would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” as the justice wrote in his dissent to the 2015 case.
The Respect for Marriage Act, the conservative activists argued, could “require federal recognition of any definition of marriage without any parameters whatsoever.” They also fear that the bill, should it pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president, would encourage left-wing activist groups to sue individuals and organizations who do not conform to HR 8404’s definition of marriage.
The Conservative Action Project, in a separatereleased Tuesday urging senators to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act, cited previous lawsuits.
It pointed to the case of Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who was sued by Washington state after she declined to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding. Alliance Defending Freedomthe Supreme Court to take up her case in 2017. Four years later Stutzman settled her case and went into retirement after the high court declined her appeal on two occasions.
The authors of the Conservative Action Project statement also cited the cases of bakers Jack Phillips and Aaron and Melissa Klein, in Colorado and Oregon, respectively, who were sued for refusing to design cakes for same-sex weddings.
The statement authors fear those cases are only the beginning, writing: “The Court’s decision in Obergefell unleashed religious freedom violations across the land, launching a new era of harassment and coercion of millions of Americans who hold a sincere religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is, or ought to be, between one man and one woman.”
The Conservative Action Project’s statement garnered signatures of more than 80 conservative leaders, many of whom also signed the Alliance Defending Freedom’s letter to McConnell. The signers include Edwin Meese III, Ronald Reagan distinguished fellow emeritus at The Heritage Foundation; the Family Research Council’s Perkins; and Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project.
According to the statement, the Respect for Marriage Act would not only “increase the threat of legal liability for those who decline to affirm same-sex marriage, but it would help cement a ‘national public policy’ on same-sex marriage that would have drastic consequences.”
Commenting on the coalition letter to McConnell, Farris:
Despite claims from its sponsors, the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ doesn’t simply codify the Obergefell decision. It forces the federal government to recognize without limit any marriage definitions that a state adopts.
It also empowers the government to punish millions of Americans who hold decent and honorable beliefs about marriage—beliefs that have existed since time immemorial—exposing citizens to predatory lawsuits and even endangering the nonprofit status of faith-based organizations.
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The following is a full list of those who signed the Alliance Defending Freedom’s letter to McConnell:
Michael P. Farris
president and CEO, Alliance Defending Freedom
Ryan T. Anderson
president, Ethics & Public Policy Center
president and CEO, Family Policy Alliance
president and CEO, Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
president, Colson Center for Christian Worldview
president, CEO and chief counsel, First Liberty Institute
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld
president, Coalition for Jewish Values
president, The Heritage Foundation
president, Family Research Council
president, Focus on the Family
CEO and president, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
executive director, Christian Legal Society
founder and chairman, Liberty Counsel
president, American Principles Project
president, Summit Ministries
president, Religious Freedom Institute
Steven W. Fitschen
president, National Legal Foundation
John W. White III
president, Lifeshape Inc.
founder and director, Them Before Us
president, Association of Christian Schools International
president, American Association of Christian Schools
president, Alaska Family Action
president, Arkansas Family Council
president, Christian Employers Alliance
Paul S. Teller
executive director, Advancing American Freedom
president and CEO, Conservative Partnership Institute
CEO, C12 Group
David S. Dockery
president, International Alliance for Christian Education
Philip E. Dearborn
president, Association for Biblical Higher Education
president, Center for Arizona Policy
president and CEO, California Family Council
executive director, Family Institute of Connecticut
president, Delaware Family Policy Council
president, Florida Family Policy Council
president, Frontline Policy Action of Georgia
president and CEO, Hawaii Family Forum
president, Hawaii Family Advocates
Bob Vander Plaats
president and CEO, the Family Leader
president, Idaho Family Policy Center
David E. Smith,
executive director, Illinois Family Institute
executive director, Indiana Family Institute
executive director, Kansas Family Voice
executive director, the Family Foundation
president, Louisiana Family Forum
president and general counsel, Massachusetts Family Institute
executive director, Christian Civic League of Maine
executive director, Michigan Family Forum
chief executive officer, Minnesota Family Council
president, Center for Political Renewal
executive director, Missouri Family Foundation
president, Montana Family Foundation
John L. Rustin
president, North Carolina Family Policy Council
Tami L. Fitzgerald
executive director, North Carolina Values Coalition
executive director, Nebraska Family Alliance
president, Nevada Family Alliance Capitol Resource Institute
executive director, Cornerstone Action of New Hampshire
founder, Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey
executive director, New Mexico Family Action Movement
Jason J. McGuire
executive director, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms
president, Center for Christian Virtue
president, Pennsylvania Family Council
executive director, Rhode Island Family Advocate
president and executive director, Palmetto Family Council
executive director, Family Heritage Alliance
president, Family Action Council of Tennessee
president, Texas Values
president, Family Foundation of Virginia
James A. Davids
chief counsel, Founding Freedoms Law Center
president, Family Policy Council of West Virginia
Julaine K. Appling
president, Wisconsin Family Action
executive director, Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming
Robert M. Myers
president, Toccoa Falls College
president, Colorado Christian University
director, Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University
Kent J. Ingle
president, Southeastern University
president, New Saint Andrews College
Troy A. Shoemaker
president, Pensacola Christian College
Barbara C. McMillin
president, Blue Mountain College
Jason K. Allen
president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College
Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver
president, Union University
Glenn C. Arbery
president, Wyoming Catholic College