WASHINGTON (RNS) Conservatives are rallying around a House bill designed to protect religious people who advocate for traditional marriage — a belief, they say, that is held in increasing contempt.

But supporters of same-sex marriage say the bill actually protects the discriminators — individuals and nonprofits that would deny gay people benefits or services simply because they are married to a same-sex partner.

Congressman Raúl Labrador photo courtesy Congressman Raúl Labrador's official website (http://labrador.house.gov/).

Congressman Raul Labrador photo courtesy Congressman Raul Labrador’s official website (http://labrador.house.gov/).


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

More than 60 House members — mostly (but not all) Republican — have signed on to the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which was introduced Sept. 19 by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who came to Congress in 2010 on a wave of support from the conservative Tea Party.

The bill signifies a shift in strategy for gay marriage opponents: Increasingly resigned to the reality that they’re unlikely to stop gay marriage, they’re now trying to blunt its impact by carving out explicit protections for dissenters.

“This bill affirms that a person’s religious belief in the importance of natural marriage should be treated with tolerance and respect by the federal government,” said David Christensen, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, which is promoting the bill.

Labrador crafted the measure in the wake of June’s Supreme Court decision that struck down most of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions. But the bill was also prompted by Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of the tax-exempt status of conservative groups — a controversy that came to a head shortly before the DOMA decision.

Under Labrador’s bill, no institution could lose its federal tax-exempt status because it promotes traditional marriage. Neither could the federal government deny a grant, contract or employment to a person or institution based on their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

“Congress needs to make clear that the federal government cannot punish people for their religious belief,” said Christensen, referring to the IRS controversy.

The National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Concerned Women for America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are also supporting Labrador’s bill.

They worry that people who act on their traditional, religious convictions about marriage are paying a price in the media and in state courts.

A description of the bill drawn up by the bishops refers to a “growing number of reports of individuals and organizations holding such beliefs being targeted for discrimination by state governments.” It referred to an August ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court that said a Christian photographer broke a state anti-discrimination law by refusing to photograph a gay wedding.

If gay marriage opponents think the photographer is the victim in this case, they’ve got it backward, say gay marriage proponents. Labrador’s bill, they continue, would officially sanction discrimination against gay people.

“It automatically goes after a specific community of people and gives free license to say, ‘It’s OK to discriminate against this group,’” said Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives at GLAAD, a leading gay rights organization. 

“I have a real hard time as a Christian fathoming why someone as a Christian would want to actively hurt another person, wanting to block them from receiving goods and services, want to block them from purchasing goods and services like everyone else does,” Murray continued.

The gay rights group Freedom to Marry called the bill “dangerous,” saying a federal employee could refuse to process the tax returns of a legally married gay couple, for example, or employers could deny a gay employee benefits under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

“This sweeping Trojan Horse proposal would swallow civil rights laws and subvert constitutional protections, and is a dangerous ‘solution’ to a non-problem,” said Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson.

The bill, which has been referred to two House committees, is unlikely to be fast-tracked through the House, and would most likely face a high hurdle in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

37 Comments

  1. These people that have used and are now seeking government sanction to continue to use religion and the Christian religion to hate on one group of law abiding citizens is so wrong . These fakes have never been concerned about the religious freedom of those Christians who back same sex marriage , going so far as to call us non – Christian and even satanic .They like to paint it as a person taking a stand ( a stand to hate ) but people do not go it to business or government service to take a stand on there religious views . This is a complete waist of time and money .

  2. Check your facts before making allegations. Many opponents of same sex marriage belong to other religions besides Christianity. They want to ensure that they continue with their rights, too. In France, the opponents were mostly non-religious people who opposed it Everyone is not on your wavelength. After all, marriage has been between and man and woman for millennia prior to Christianity and many other religions.

    • No, in AmeriKa, anti-gay-Christianity owns the anti-gay industry. They’ll pay for it too, very slowly, but they’ll pay. They’ll pay in legal fees and they’ll pay socially. They deserve ferocious scrutiny (and a punch in the face for being rights snatchers).

      • If it ain’t a man and a woman, it ain’t even a marriage.

        You’re right that some of us Christians will be forced to “pay”, especially with Obama and the gay activists doing their evil deeds. However, marriage — genuine marriage, God-given marriage — is worth paying for.

        • CarrotCakeMan

          More than an hour before you posted this rant, I asked these questions:

          “Please demonstrate how LGBT Americans have denied other Americans their right to freedom of religion. How about demonstrating when LGBT Americans have cooked up a Hate Vote to deprive anti-gays of their right to legal marriage? Please do NOT cite the pavilion on public property built by a Methodist congregation where they promised to operate the pavilion equally. Please remember that many major Christian and Jewish denominations are currently being denied their right to marry same gender couples in 36 US States.”

          Spare readers your nonsense about “evil deeds,” because we all know anti-gays are the ones who committed evil deeds with their anti-gay Hate Votes. The US Supreme Court has already affirmed the ruling that unconstitutional animus was the sole reason for a Hate Vote, and affirmed that Hate Vote’s revocation. Even Antonin Scalia admitted in writing that nationwide marriage equality is inevitable. Please work on accepting reality, Doc, and remember, no one is ever fooled by the anti-gay lies foolish anti-gays post.

          • It’s okay to accept reality, as you suggest. It’s just that men and women are NOT interchangable, not on the outside and certainly not on the inside. THAT is the reality, to be accepted by all. That reality lies at the heart of marriage and child-rearing. Men and women are unique and complementary. Neither gender is dispensable.

            That’s why if it ain’t a man and a woman, it ain’t even a marriage. Gay marriage is just a mess that diminishes the victims involved.

          • CarrotCakeMan

            Your problem seems to stem from your confusion that the participants in a marriage to which you are not a party is simply none of your business. You may seek a spouse for yourself using your limited parameters, and even seek to associate only with other people that share your delusion, but that will not change the fact that state after state will establish marriage equality that the federal government already recognizes, and that every year more major denominations will marry same gender American couples.

            But, hey, enjoy your little fantasy, I do recognize that’s all you’ve got.

    • “They want to ensure that they continue with their rights, too.”

      No one is prohibited or exempt from going to city hall and getting married.
      No one marries someone they do not wish to marry.

      What you want to call “religion” is no one else’s business, not even the government’s. Mind your own “business.”

    • It isn’t a matter of religious right at all. It’s a matter of civil rights. If someone wishes to consider marriage from a religious viewpoint, that’s their right. No one is standing in their way. It is straight people, especially religious straight people, who try to stand in the way of anyone else having the same human rights.

      Sexual orientation is not the same for everyone, obviously, but the right to love and marry should be guaranteed and protected as a right for all people, no matter their sexual orientation. All people love. All people wish to relate and share lives. Learn more science. Learn more sociology. Learn more psychology.

      Most civil officials are qualified as legal officiants at marriages. Just because church ministers are permitted by state laws to also officiate at marriages, it does not follow that marriage is only a religious condition. Marriage is human, it is civil, and it is sometimes considered religious.

      It is a convenience to require only a single marriage ceremony as in the United States rather than a civil and religious ceremony as was required, for instance, of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier in Monaco.

  3. Such an obviously unconstitutional law would be a waste of time and resources,like the GOP House’s 42 votes to overrule Obamacare…….get rid of these idiots!!!!!!

    • I don’t know if we should resort to calling those who disagree with us “idiots,” but they are certainly uninformed about many things related to gender orientation and marriage–like science, sociology, psychology, history, and even religion. Sadly, they dare to argue from that illiteracy which in too, too many cases is plain, hateful bigotry.

  4. My grandfather owned a tuxedo shop and his religious beliefs were that interracial marriage was sinful and against God’s law. I’m glad he still followed the law and served interracial couples seeking his services anyway.

    We realized years ago the shame of “whites only” signs outside of stores or restaurants. This law would allow “straights only” signs.

    Religious freedom is vital, but selling products is not practicing religion. If we allow religious exemption from laws, anyone could claim they can break any law they want because of their beliefs, which would mean anarchy. This law isn’t going anywhere and is a waste of time and money.

    • Well, it was profitable to serve interracial couples for wedding clothes. And as they say, “Money is the root of all evil,” even the evil of violating ignorant, biblical, prejudices. The gods have changed so much from era to era from the mythology of the Greeks, even their forerunners, all the way through modern Christianity. It’s a process, with lots of bumps and grinds.

  5. Dear anti-gay-Christians, we will use you as a mop to clean up your stinking mess at every opportunity in state and federal court. You’re the agents of discrimination, and we’ll also stick you with the legal fees for your precious hate laws. Middle finger to you all!

      • CarrotCakeMan

        That’s nothing compared to the level of vitriol anti-gays fling at anyone who supports the right of same gender American couples to marriage equality.

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        Simply amazing the vicious hatred many Gays have toward those who disagree with them, though the media rarely publishes stories about Gay violence–of which there is plenty.. It shows up loud and clear in a number of the comments here.
        But all that the hatred proves is that laws are needed to protect those who disagree with the Gay political agenda.

    • But then, Cariolo, we would be guilty of the same illiteracy and ugly bigotry from which so many anti-gay Christians suffer. We certainly shouldn’t be seeking that awful infection.

  6. Couples go to city hall to get a marriage license.
    Individuals go to city hall to get a business license.
    When did city halls become churches?

    When did baking a cake, arranging flowers, or taking photographs become the practice of a religion?
    I guess anything goes when someone calls it a “religion.”

    Bet voters wish they had not given their state the power to establish and regulate their “religion” in marriage law, business law, property law, tax law.

    Mr. Labrador seems intent on giving the federal government the power to do just that.

    • States allowed ministers of religion to act as civil agents to preside at marriages in their churches just to avoid the bother of requiring a civil ceremony of those who wished to begin their marriage with a religious ceremony. One ceremony instead of two. Religious ministers only act as a convenience permitted to them by law. It doesn’t turn public offices into churches. It turns religious ministers into public officials for the purpose of marriage only.

  7. I believe that such a law is probably necessary in our day. It is actually possible that anti-discrimination laws can go too far, effectively encroaching upon and even destroying religious freedom rights. Balance is in order.

    Conservative Christians should stop trying to control our civil laws, but those in the LGBT community should also stop trying to impose civil law upon what are essentially religious freedom issues.

    We as a society will have to grapple with balancing these two interests.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      Please demonstrate how LGBT Americans have denied other Americans their right to freedom of religion. How about demonstrating when LGBT Americans have cooked up a Hate Vote to deprive anti-gays of their right to legal marriage? Please do NOT cite the pavilion on public property built by a Methodist congregation where they promised to operate the pavilion equally. Please remember that many major Christian and Jewish denominations are currently being denied their right to marry same gender couples in 36 US States.

      • CarrotCakeMan – I think I sufficiently addressed both of your concerns in my post. First, I did not say that LGBT Americans have denied anyone of their religious freedoms. I only cautioned that they not try to use civil rights laws to do so in the future.

        Secondly, I think I made myself clear that those opposed to same-sex relationships (ex. Conservative Christians) should not try to impose their views on our civil laws. Yes, it has been done in the past. I believe it should stop.

        IMO there is plenty of hate to go around in this debate. Yes, on both sides. I hope that we as a society can work this our where the rights and freedoms of both groups are respected. Time will tell.

        • What grounds do you have for even suggesting that gay people would copy the behavior of their prejudiced, straight opponents just because they want the same human rights as those straights?

          Gay people come from straight people, not the other way around. Let’s hope the prejudices of the straight forebears of gay people aren’t genetically or culturally transmitted. :-)

        • The big problem, the main problem, is that “the rights and freedoms” of straights and gays are not equal. Gays are still fighting, as are other minorities, for the same “rights and freedoms” already held by those in the majority.

  8. This is a toothless bill. What the law should say is if you harass ppl of faith for their stand on marriage the government will throw you in jail and impose heavy fines and face civil liabilities as well. The first amendment guarantees our right to free speech.

  9. Tell me, who’s threatening straight people just because gay people enjoy the same rights and benefits of marriage they have long exploited only for themselves? What about the single people who have been supporting married people for centuries? It’s the straights who are guilty of threats.

    That’s as ridiculous as the facetious argument invented by Republicans to transfer their blame for shutting down the government onto President Obama because they can’t demolish what is already law and what has been confirmed by the Supreme Court and Obama’s reelection.

  10. The New Mexico Supreme Court, Congressman Labrador, Ross Murray, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are all wrong on this one. The New Mexico Supreme Court, Labrador, and the bishops are catering to those who would violate the Constitution and continue to condone government support of church activities in many forms, like giving public funds to church operations and forced proselytizing on military bases. Though practiced more and more, and ever more brazenly, those are some of the violations of the wise separation of church and state required by the First Amendment’s non-establishment clause.

    Murray and GLADD are wrong in presuming that all prejudice is unconstitutional or illegal. It is only when the prejudice is a violation of the rights of others, protected by the Constitution and other laws, that it is unconstitutional or illegal. The photographer who refused to work at a gay wedding is not violating anyone’s rights. We do not have a right to demand the business of others when no public accommodation is involved. The photographer might be a bigoted fool for passing up the opportunity to make money, which is the purpose of his business, but no one, gay or straight, has the right to force him to take their pictures. That is not a public accommodation. No government funds or activities are involved. No human or legal rights are being violated.

    Labrador and the Catholic bishops are plainly distorting future potentials, as are Ross and Gladd, in trying to make the photographer case a test of possible infringements of anyone’s rights.

    One would think the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, even before wiping their faces clean of the mud caused by the way they lied, violated the law, and proved themselves hypocrites by participating fully in the destruction of persons in sexual abuse by their clergy and themselves, would hesitate to make so much public noise about anyone’s rights by trying to compose a brief defending prejudice in any form. Their action is a clear violation of the First Amendment in their efforts to force anyone to abide by their religious faith and morals.

    No crime was committed. No charges should be made. And those involved, the courts, Labrador, the USCCB, and GLADD, should cease attempting to make a legal mole hill out of nothing just to gain attention for their own prejudices or ambitions.

  1. […] R-Idaho, who came to Congress in 2010 on a wave of support from the conservative Tea Party. Conservatives promote House bill to protect opponents of gay marriage | Religion News Service Shocking isn't it? I'm no longer shocked by Tea Party denial. Would you like me to post more […]

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