Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is leading an effort to amend the controversial Respect for Marriage Act, a law aimed at protecting same-sex marriages that was passed with bipartisan support last summer, in order to include new protections for religious observers that weren’t included.
In a Tuesday letter reviewed exclusively by Fox News Digital, Roy and 23 other House Republicans asked the House Appropriations Committee leadership to include these new protections in a spending bill for the next fiscal year.
The Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government and states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal. The law includes language that was aimed at ensuring people and organizations who don’t support same-sex marriage aren’t subject to retaliation, but Roy says those protections are not enough, and that these groups could still be at risk of losing them unless the law is strengthened.
Specifically, Roy wants to add language that prohibits the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is, or should be recognized as, a union of one man and one woman.”
The House Republicans want to define “discriminatory action” to include altering any federal tax treatment, withholding federal government benefit or access to federal property or educational institution otherwise publicly available, among other things.
“Without this language, we fear that the federal government will begin to systematically discriminate against religious schools, faith-based organizations, and other non-profits by barring their participation in federal programs, and removing their tax-exempt status, for their views on marriage,” the letter said.
“The First Amendment is sacred. It secures the right to write, pray, think, speak, and associate as one pleases. These fundamental rights are uncontroversial and must be protected,” it said.
The law was passed after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which returned the question of abortion rights back to the states. Democrats then worried that another case that created a federal right to same-sex marriage might be overturned, which prompted passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
When the law was being considered in the Senate, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., wrote an amendment aimed at adding religious liberty protections that the Senate approved. But some Republicans and conservative groups said at the time that this amendment didn’t go far enough to protect people who fear litigation or government retaliation for their belief in traditional marriage.
Roy says his amendment “ensures that the free exercise rights of millions of Americans and nonprofit organizations will not face punishment and discrimination from the federal government for their beliefs.”
“Such organizations care for the poor, mentor at-risk-youth, feed the hungry, rebuild homes after natural disasters, minister to soldiers and first responders, visit those in prison, educate children and manufacture millions of good, civic-minded citizens each year,” Roy said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“To weaponize the power of the federal government against them is un-American and would do a tremendous disservice to not just these organizations but to this Republic and the fundamental rights which it protects,” he said.
The letter earned praise from religious and conservative special interest groups like Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and Catholic Vote.
“We applaud Rep. Roy for responding quickly to the despicable 2022 law that allows the federal government to target those who believe in marriage,” Catholic Vote President Brian Burch told Fox News Digital.
“In every civilization, marriage has always been privileged because it binds a father and mother together to raise the next generation of citizens on behalf of the nation. No government should allow activist legislation to target citizens who honor that definition,” the group added.
Other signatories to the letter include Reps., Kat Cammack, R-Fla., Jim Banks, R-Ind., Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-S.C. and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
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