Several Republican Senators have introduced their own version of the House’s so-called “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act,” introduced in September by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), which guarantees that businesses and even government employees can refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage and discriminate against anybody who engages in premarital sex.
According to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), the bill’s sponsor, the issue at hand is “respect” for Christians’ “religious liberty”:
LEE: This bill protects the rights of individuals and organizations from religious discrimination by the federal government. Those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage deserve respect and tolerance. It is critical that we clarify the law to ensure that their fundamental civil liberties are not at risk.
Another co-sponsor, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), believes that “religious freedom” is under attack by marriage equality:
VITTER: Religious freedom is a foundational principle to our great nation, and it’s something that Louisianians and folks across the country cherish — including the millions of Americans, like myself, who support traditional marriage. But, for a number of reasons, this basic freedom is under attack by the current administration. This bill will protect groups from administrative attacks, such as additional hurdles with taxes or obtaining federal grants or contracts.
Rather than protecting religious freedom, these bills would force taxpayers to abide by one particular set of beliefs by subsidizing opposition to same-sex marriage or any sexual activity outside of marriage. The legislation appears to be a work-around now that the Supreme Court has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act — if it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to not recognize same-sex marriages, these lawmakers hope they can make it legal for individuals instead.
As ThinkProgress reported in September, the implications for this legislation are numerous, but could allow businesses to discriminate against employees with a same-sex spouse, government officials to discriminate against same-sex couples filing their taxes jointly, or religiously affiliated hospitals discriminating against patients with same-sex spouses.
In early 2012, Lee told ThinkProgress he believed businesses should be free to fire employees just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Currently, Labrador’s bill only has 92 cosponsors and Lee’s only has eleven: Sens. Vitter, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Orrin Hatch (UT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), James Risch (R-ID), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The only Democratic lawmakers that support either bill are Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL).
Both the National Organization for Marriage and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed the bill today. According to Archbishop William Lori, the legislation is necessary to protection against “a growing climate of intolerance against individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”