Conservative Leaders Urge GOP Senators to Reject House-Passed Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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Conservative leaders are calling on senators to reject the House-passed Respect for Marriage Act, 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 letter 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 H.R. 8404’s definition of marriage.  

The Conservative Action Project, in a separate statement released Tuesday urging senators to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act, cited previous lawsuits.

They 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 Freedom petitioned the 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 remarked:

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  

Craig DeRoche 

president and CEO, Family Policy Alliance 

Franklin Graham 
president and CEO, Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association  

John Stonestreet 
president, Colson Center for Christian Worldview 

Kelly Shackelford 
president, CEO and chief counsel, First Liberty Institute 

Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld 

president, Coalition for Jewish Values  

Kevin Roberts

president, The Heritage Foundation  

Tony Perkins 
president, Family Research Council 

Jim Daly

president, Focus on the Family  

Penny Nance 
CEO and president, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee  

R. Albert Mohler Jr. 
president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 

David Nammo  

executive director, Christian Legal Society 

Mat Staver

founder and chairman, Liberty Counsel  

Terry Schilling 
president, American Principles Project 

Jeff Myers 

president, Summit Ministries  

Thomas Farr 
president, Religious Freedom Institute 

Steven W. Fitschen  

president, National Legal Foundation  

John W. White III  

president, Lifeshape Inc. 

Katy Faust 

founder and director, Them Before Us 

Larry Taylor
president, Association of Christian Schools International

Mike Rouse
president, American Association of Christian Schools

Jim Minnery 

president, Alaska Family Action

Jerry Cox
president, Arkansas Family Council

Brian Burch 

president, CatholicVote

Shannon Royce
president, Christian Employers Alliance

Paul S. Teller

executive director, Advancing American Freedom

Ed Corrigan
president and CEO, Conservative Partnership Institute

Mike Sharrow 

CEO, C12 Group

David S. Dockery
president, International Alliance for Christian Education

Philip E. Dearborn 

president, Association for Biblical Higher Education

Cathi Herrod
president, Center for Arizona Policy

Jonathan Keller

president and CEO, California Family Council

Peter Wolfgang
executive director, Family Institute of Connecticut 

Nicole Theis
president, Delaware Family Policy Council

John Stemberger
president, Florida Family Policy Council

Cole Muzio
president, Frontline Policy Action of Georgia

Eva Andrade 

president and CEO, Hawaii Family Forum

Jim Hochberg
president, Hawaii Family Advocates

Bob Vander Plaats 

president and CEO, the Family Leader

Blaine Conzatti
president, Idaho Family Policy Center

David E. Smith, 

executive director, Illinois Family Institute

Ryan McCann
executive director, Indiana Family Institute

Jeff Bennett 

executive director, Kansas Family Voice

David Walls
executive director, the Family Foundation

Gene Mills
president, Louisiana Family Forum

Andrew Beckwith
president and general counsel, Massachusetts Family Institute 

Carroll Conley
executive director, Christian Civic League of Maine 

Jeff Hewson
executive director, Michigan Family Forum 

John Helmberger
chief executive officer, Minnesota Family Council 

Jameson Taylor
president, Center for Political Renewal

Jannique Stewart
executive director, Missouri Family Foundation 

Jeff Laszloffy
president, Montana Family Foundation 

John L. Rustin
president, North Carolina Family Policy Council 

Tami L. Fitzgerald

executive director, North Carolina Values Coalition 

Karen Bowling
executive director, Nebraska Family Alliance 

Karen England
president, Nevada Family Alliance Capitol Resource Institute 

Shannon McGinley

executive director, Cornerstone Action of New Hampshire 

Len Deo
founder, Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey 

Jodi Hendricks
executive director, New Mexico Family Action Movement 

Jason J. McGuire
executive director, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms 

Aaron Baer

president, Center for Christian Virtue

Michael Geer
president, Pennsylvania Family Council 

Dave Aucoin
executive director, Rhode Island Family Advocate 

Dave Wilson
president and executive director, Palmetto Family Council 

Norman Woods
executive director, Family Heritage Alliance 

David Fowler

president, Family Action Council of Tennessee

Jonathan Saenz 

president, Texas Values 

Victoria Cobb
president, Family Foundation of Virginia 

James A. Davids
chief counsel, Founding Freedoms Law Center

Caiden Cowger
president, Family Policy Council of West Virginia 

Julaine K. Appling 

president, Wisconsin Family Action 

Nathan Winters

executive director, Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming 

Robert M. Myers 

president, Toccoa Falls College 

Donald Sweeting 

president, Colorado Christian University 

Jeff Hunt
director, Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University 

Kent J. Ingle 
president, Southeastern University 

Ben Merkle
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 

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