Press Releases

Respect for Marriage Act Protects States’ Rights and Religious Freedom

Respect for Marriage Act Protects States’ Rights and Religious Freedom

By Congressman Simpson

Washington, D.C. – “Marriage has always been the fundamental building block of our society.  In recent years, it has also become one of the most debated and controversial political issues in this country.  When the House of Representatives voted this week to send H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, to be signed into law, I heard from a lot of Idahoans who had questions and concerns about both this bill and the larger issue of how we define marriage in this country.  This is a dialog I value and welcome.  What I do not welcome, however, is how some people are using this issue to score political points and create fear among my constituents.  The people of Idaho know the difference between legitimate political debate and fearmonger tactics, and I believe it is important to set the record straight.

“I’ve heard some people try to characterize a vote against HR. 8404 as a vote to protect states’ rights, as if it would force the State of Idaho to issue a marriage license to anyone regardless of state law.  That depiction of the bill is misleading and inaccurate.  HR. 8404, which passed with a broad and bipartisan vote both in the Senate and the House, simply states that when two people are lawfully married in one state, that marriage must be recognized in any other state.  This is current federal law, and the bill does nothing to change that. 

“I have always strongly supported states’ rights and the authority of states to make their own laws when it comes to issuing marriage licenses.  But I also take marriage seriously, and to me, suggesting that someone’s marital status depends on where they happen to live at that moment denigrates the institution of marriage.  Can you imagine Micron trying to recruit an exceptional employee who has been married for several years and then telling them that when they move to Idaho, they suddenly won’t be married anymore?  It is ridiculous to suggest that we “unmarry” them when they cross the state lines. 

“For better or worse, the decision about defining marriage was made several years ago, and this bill doesn’t change or add to it.  It is very narrowly crafted simply to clarify that a lawful marriage between two adults will be recognized across the country.  There are other issues where I have long supported clarification on federal preemption, including allowing individuals with a concealed carry permit issued by a state to have reciprocity in other states where concealed carry is legal.  In both cases, the issue does not usurp states’ rights; it offers needed clarity and fairness to all Americans.

“On the issue of marriage, in keeping with my strong dedication to religious freedom protections under the U.S. Constitution, I am pleased that the bill passed by the Senate includes additional language that explicitly clarifies protection for religious organizations and all people of faith.  The new language ensures that individuals, churches, and other religious organizations will not be required to perform or support the celebration of same-sex marriages and will not face legal retaliation for their beliefs about marriage, protecting tax-exempt status and other rights and benefits that these entities may have under the law.  The language offers strong protections of our constitutional right to religious freedom that are broadly supported by faith communities in this country, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Ultimately, Americans want Congress to solve problems, not to engage in fearmongering and political games.  In light of the narrow scope of H.R. 8404 and the conscience protections for people of faith, I saw no good excuse for voting against this bill.  Doing so would only have played politics with people’s lives and families.”