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Utah Senator Mike Lee introduces religious liberties legislation in Congress

Marriage equality

Mike LeeHouses of worship in the U.S. are protected from being forced to celebrate same-sex weddings–most broadly, of course, by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and also more specifically by the language of many states’ marriage equality statutes.  For Utah Sen. Mike Lee, though, that isn’t enough–and he’s out to do something about it.  The Washington Examiner reports:

Sen. Mike Lee has authored a bill to prevent President Obama from using his executive power to push churches and other nonprofit groups to recognize gay marriage.

“It is concerning that we have people in this administration who think that religious liberties are just not that big of a deal,” the Utah Republican told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday.

President Obama promised to respect religious liberty in his statement on the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn parts of the Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States.

“How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions,” Obama said.

Lee thinks federal officials could work around that promise by trying to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that support traditional marriage.

“We need not just statements, but we need legislation to protect religious liberty from this kind of potential threat,” he said during the interview.

Other sponsors of the bill in the Senate include Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

“Nearly every member of Congress on both ends of the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle, will at least purport to be a strong supporter of religious liberty, and this should be an uncontroversial position to take,” Lee told the Examiner. “I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.”

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a political stunt–the bill simply wouldn’t change any of the facts on the ground, given that there is no sign that President Obama is planning to revoke tax exempt status for churches by executive fiat.  Nevertheless, the religious liberties arguments around marriage equality are unlikely to go away as more states allow same-sex couples to wed; if anything, they’re likely to get even louder.

17 Comments

  • 1. Jim Kane  |  December 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

    What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" do they not understand

  • 2. Ed Cortes  |  December 13, 2013 at 9:18 am

    All of it

  • 3. Eric  |  December 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Meaning Congress is perfectly free to make laws disrespecting an establishment of religion.

  • 4. FYoung  |  December 13, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I suspect the intent here is to protect churches from the possibility of losing government funding or government owned facilities if they discriminate against gay married couples in government funded or subsidized programs they administer, such as adoption, schools, hospitals and homeless shelters.

  • 5. Steve  |  December 14, 2013 at 7:19 am

    The main purpose is to make life harder for gay people and keep them oppressed

  • 6. Dr. Z  |  December 13, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I see Sec'y of Defense Hagel is now saying that all states are in compliance on the National Guard/ID card issue. What about that teabagger nutcase governor in Oklahoma? She said they'd stop allowing service members to register using state facilities regardless of whether they're SS or OS married. Did she quietly back down? Or is Hagel overstating the situation in Oklahoma?

  • 7. nightshayde  |  December 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I'm not positive — but I'll venture to guess that "in compliance" in this case means treating all married couples equally. If the nutcase governor in Oklahoma is truly treating all married couples equally (even if it's by denying services to all), she would be considered "in compliance." It's stupid. It's horrible. But if she's treating everyone the same, she's "technically" not discriminating against any one group.

  • 8. Dr. Z  |  December 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Yes, but given that all the other states backed down (and that her "solution" is bound to be politically unpopular, even in Oklahoma, because it penalizes straight troops) I was wondering if she also beat a quiet retreat.

  • 9. nightshayde  |  December 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Apparently, she has. http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/state-national-guar

  • 10. Richard Weatherwax  |  December 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

    If a church owned business can discriminate against same sex couples, why couldn't a church owned business discriminate against Jews? Discriminate against women? Discriminate against blacks? Discriminate against Muslims? Discriminate against Mormons?

  • 11. davep  |  December 13, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Shame on the Washington Examiner for this blatant rhetoric:

    "Lee thinks federal officials could work around that promise by trying to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that SUPPORT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE".

    First, nothing in the work done to achieve civil marriage for same sex couples has been done to prevent anyone from 'supporting traditional marriage'. People have always been free to do so and that does not change when same sex couples are also allowed to legally marry.

    There is a huge difference between 'supporting traditional marriage', which people are always free to do, and seeking to discriminate against other marriages that have nothing to do with your religious organization, or seeking permission to violate Public Accommodation Laws that have nothing to do with 'supporting traditional marriage'.

    That remark in the article deserves a smack on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

  • 12. Ken  |  December 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    From my experience every writer I've ever privately emailed not only read my email to them but responded. I'm a firm believer in strongly worded letters. Whats this authors email address?

  • 13. Valquiria  |  December 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

    And Rubio continues his desperate campaign to remain politically relevant. His old shtick, that of a moderate "rising star" and champion of immigrants, crashed and burned after a few short months. So now he's trying to rebrand himself and capture a constituency. Rabid theocrats are the dumbest and therefore the easiest to fool. Once he's sponsored enough anti-gay legislation and spoken at enough creationist seminars, he'll try to run as the "family values" candidate in 2016. And he'll still get blown out of the water by Jeb Bush.

  • 14. SoCal_Dave  |  December 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Lee: “I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.”

    Agree, but hypocritically, they *have* supported the federal government making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of *governments*. All the anti-same-sex marriage laws constitutional amendments are exactly that, foisting one particular brand of religious doctrine onto governments.

  • 15. Zack12  |  December 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    This isn't a free speech issue. THis is just another example of homophobes wanting to be able to discriminate while using religious beliefs as a justification for doing so.

  • 16. Rik  |  December 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    DOUCHE!

  • 17. mnbob  |  December 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    "Other sponsors of the bill in the Senate include Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma."

    Lame of six

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