Thanks to North Carolina’s Senators Burr and Tillis, the misnamed dis-“Respect for Marriage Act” (HR8404) has passed the Senate and now returns to the House for approval of their amendments. That vote is likely to occur this week.

HR8404 redefines marriage between one man and one woman to include same-sex couples, and puts freedoms of religious entities at grave risk. Unfortunately, changes to the bill do not address the underlying threats to marriage and religious freedom. As a result, another one of the 47 House Republicans who initially voted for HR8404 announced their withdrawal of support. In his announcement, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) claimed Democrats failed “to provide legitimate safeguards for faith-based organizations” that hold “deeply-held religious beliefs” about natural marriage. All Republican Congressmen from North Carolina voted against the bill the first time it came up in the House, and we expect them to do so again.

We have received numerous emails from many of you asking about Senator Tillis’ justification for voting for HR8404. We want to give you specifics so you can discuss it with your Congressman and keep him or her from veering off course, like Senator Tillis did.  We also want you to know the truth about Senator Tillis’ remarks.

In a letter emailed to constituents who asked Senator Tillis to vote NO on HR8404, he made some misleading and illogical claims.  First, he said, “I worked to secure a bipartisan compromise to protect the religious freedoms of churches and religious organizations.”  This is circular logic.  Senator Tillis is essentially saying, “I protected religious freedom by voting to legalize same-sex marriage, allowing radical activists to sue people of faith who believe marriage is the union between a woman and man.” 

There was no need to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in federal law, because the 2015 Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage and struck down North Carolina’s marriage amendment along with 30 other states’ marriage amendments. As Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation put it,

“Seeking to entrench the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and beyond in national law—while declining to press the sociological, biblical, and biological arguments favoring conjugal marriage—suggests these advocates believe that further recognizing same-sex marriage in law is a positive social good. If so, they should own up to that in candor and out of respect to those they seek to influence.”

Senator Tillis claimed,

“A bipartisan amendment I helped negotiate will ensure robust protections for churches and religious organizations – protections that are more robust and expansive than what currently exists in federal law.”

This claim is untrue. 

The bill only protects churches and religious organizations from refusing to provide “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” The First Amendment protects the rights of free speech and free exercise of religion in all aspects of public life—not just solemnization or celebration of marriage. The dis-“Respect for Marriage Act” thus reduces First Amendment protections only to the solemnization or celebration of marriage.

Tillis’ amendment is inadequate to address many of the gravest risks posed by the bill, particularly the threat to tax exempt status and religious non-profits like adoption agencies and foster care agencies. HR8404 only exacerbates and nationalizes the discriminatory policies that have essentially shut down religious adoption and foster care agencies unless they place children for adoption with same-sex couples.  It would also subject countless faith-based organizations to revocation of their tax-exempt status, because the IRS could view the adoption of a national policy favoring same-sex marriage as a basis for denying such status to organizations that refuse to advocate for it. Senator Mike Lee from Utah offered an amendment to cure this defect, which Senator Tillis voted for, but the amendment failed. Senator Tillis should have voted against the bill without Senator Lee’s Amendment in place.

Senator Tillis also stated that the bill doesn’t support polygamous marriages.  The latest version of the bill would not grant federal recognition of “marriages between more than two individuals,” which would cover unions where three or more persons are married to each other as one family unit.  However, the bill leaves open the possibility that one person can be in multiple two-person marriages at the same time, which would trigger federal recognition if a state legally were to recognize such consensual, bigamous unions.

Would you consider using this handy tool to contact or recontact your member of the U.S. House and ask them to vote against HR8404 again? The U.S. Senate has not cured the defects, and the threat to religious freedom is still alive and well.  Help us defeat this harmful bill that has been advanced during the lame duck session of Congress.

Thank you for supporting marriage the way God created it—the union of only one man and one woman!

In gratitude,

Tami & Team,
NC Values

PS: If you support our work keeping your congressmen accountable would you consider making a needed $10, $25, $50, $100 or more end-of-yeaer donation today?