Religious groups urge Senate to pass same-sex marriage bill ahead of Tuesday vote

Disunited Methodists
FILE – In this April 19, 2019 file photo, a gay pride rainbow flag flies along with the U.S. flag in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Conservative leaders within the United Methodist Church unveiled plans Monday, March 1, 2021 to form a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, with a doctrine that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The move could hasten the long-expected breakup of the UMC, America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, over differing approaches to LGBTQ inclusion. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File) Charlie Riedel/AP

Religious groups urge Senate to pass same-sex marriage bill ahead of Tuesday vote

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More than 20 religious groups penned a letter to the Senate on Monday to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would codify same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law, calling the right to marry “a matter of human dignity.”

The letter, addressed to Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), comes one day before senators are set to vote on the Respect For Marriage Act. Democrats have made the legislation a top priority during the current lame-duck period as the party prepares to cede control of the lower chamber to Republicans.

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“The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple way to provide legal stability for all married couples and their families. Within our communities, we approach matters of marriage, family, and identity differently,” the groups wrote in the letter. “As faith-based organizations, we recognize that the First Amendment right to religious freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy.”

The legislation has been at the center of intense debate between lawmakers, with some conservatives arguing the bill would do little to increase protections for same-sex and interracial marriages and instead make religious institutions susceptible to litigation.

In response, a group of bipartisan senators included a religious freedom amendment that would protect institutions from losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, a provision that was added after the House passed the legislation earlier this summer. Because of that amendment, the group of religious organizations says the bill should be passed.

“This bill recognizes this diversity of belief while ensuring that same-sex and interracial couples are treated with equal respect by federal and state governments,” the letter said. “The bipartisan substitute amendment provides important clarification around the interaction between the Respect for Marriage Act and the robust religious freedom protections guaranteed under federal law. Crafted in the spirit of collaboration, the amendment protects the right to believe as we choose while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to respect marriages.”

The letter was signed by 23 religious groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ.

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The Senate is scheduled to vote on the legislation on Tuesday after clearing a major procedural hurdle earlier this month when 12 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to advance the bill through the upper chamber.

The bill passed the House in July with 47 Republicans joining Democrats to back the legislation, igniting talks among Democratic senators on how to get enough GOP support to pass the bill through the Senate. If the bill passes the Senate later this week, it will head back to the House, which must vote to approve the religious freedom amendment that was not included earlier this summer, before it heads to President Joe Biden for approval.

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