by Rob Bluey
Voters in five Republican-leaning states oppose a same-sex marriage bill under consideration by the U.S. Senate on the grounds that it undermines religious liberty and punishes people of faith.
The survey of 2,000 likely voters in Indiana, Iowa, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming puts support for the deceptively named Respect for Marriage Act at just 41% compared to 47% who oppose the bill. The opposition is even higher among Republicans (70%) and conservatives (73%).
Sens. Todd Young of Indiana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming were among the 12 Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats to support a procedural motion Nov. 16 to advance the bill.
“These results show that voters’ opinions of the Respect for Marriage Act in these five states is not what is being reported,” said Wes Anderson, partner at OnMessage Inc., which conducted the poll. “Voters in these conservative states oppose the bill and this opposition only grows when more information is given. It is clear that it will take more than a naming misdirect to convince the GOP base that this bill is not a threat to their religious liberty.”
If just three of the 12 Republican senators change their vote, there’s an opportunity for religious liberty supporters to add an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that guarantees First Amendment protections for people of faith.
The survey asked likely voters about the consequences of the bill on people of faith:
- 53% oppose the bill when informed it would permit lawsuits against religious organizations for not participating in same-sex marriages. Opposition jumps to 69% among Republican voters.
- 52% oppose the bill when they learn it would punish faith-based organizations that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. Opposition is 70% among Republicans.
- 51% are opposed when told the IRS could remove an organization’s tax-exempt status for not recognizing same-sex marriages. Opposition spikes to 70% among Republican voters.
Democrats originally brought the bill to the House floor July 19 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. Fearing the court might one day do the same with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that recognized same-sex marriages, the bill’s supporters want Congress to act now.
Forty-seven Republicans voted for the House bill, but it stalled in the Senate amid concerns over religious liberty. A handful of senators, including three Republicans, attempted to spark Senate action by offering an amendment that purports to address those concerns. Yet it doesn’t go far enough, according to Lee.
“What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions,” Lee wrote in a letter signed by 20 of his Senate colleagues urging adoption of his amendment.
In addition to lawsuits, people of faith and religious-affiliated institutions could be subject to scrutiny from the IRS, including threats to their tax-exempt status.
The Heritage Foundation, which commissioned the five-state survey, launched a $1.3 million advertising campaign this week in conjunction with Heritage Action for America, an independent partner organization. The campaign seeks to education Americans about the consequences of the bill. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)
Senators will consider the legislation Monday when they return to Capitol Hill. Lee blocked a unanimous consent agreement, meaning supporters of the bill will once again need 60 votes to move forward. He’s hoping instead they adopt his amendment.
“My amendment would ensure that federal bureaucrats do not take discriminatory actions against individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.,” Lee wrote in the letter to his colleagues. “It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest convictions even outside of their church or home.”
We still have time to protect religious liberty. We’re asking our colleagues to support my amendment. pic.twitter.com/y7JXkxNXTZ
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 19, 2022
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.9% for each state and +/-2.19 for the full sample.
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Rob Bluey is executive editor of The Daily Signal, the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.
Photo “Gay Couple” by Chrysostomos Galathris.