Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Rep. Steve Scalise, Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced a landmark bipartisan bill today to protect freedom of conscience on the issue of marriage. Their bill -- the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act -- would prohibit discrimination through the federal tax code against individuals or institutions that exercise religious conscience regarding marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"Regardless of your ideology, we can all agree about the importance of religious liberty in America," said Rep. Labrador. "Our bill will protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. As President Obama said, "Americans hold a wide range of views' on marriage and "maintaining our nation's commitment to religious freedom' is "vital.' We agree.
"Our bill will ensure tolerance for individuals and organizations that affirm traditional marriage, protecting them from adverse federal action. I'm proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this bill, and will strongly advocate for its passage."
Most religious institutions fall within the 501(c) portion of the U.S. tax code, which allows for tax exemption. Under the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, no individual or institution which celebrates and defines marriage as between one man and one woman would be denied or lose exemption from taxation provided for under federal law.
"I commend Congressman Raul Labrador for bringing forth this bill and leading on this important issue. As we've seen with the IRS scandals, nonprofit organizations and those who support them may be targeted and punished for their beliefs and principles," said Chairman Scalise. "Furthermore, the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage may embolden those in government who want to impose their views of marriage on faith-based organizations. We need this strong legislation to protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Raul's bill does exactly that, ensuring respect and tolerance for those who affirm traditional marriage."
"It is critical that institutions which hold the fundamental belief that marriage is between one man and one woman be protected in their convictions," said Rep. McIntyre. "The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act will ensure that this right is protected, and they are not penalized for their beliefs and values."
"The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would help preserve the most basic rights of all Americans: the right to religious liberty and the rights of conscience," Rep. Lipinski said. "The idea that individuals, churches and institutions could be penalized for not endorsing a practice in opposition to their core beliefs goes against the fundamental principles espoused by our founding fathers. I ask my colleagues in the House to act on this legislation swiftly to discourage the potential discrimination against those who simply choose to exercise their rights as Americans."
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act has over 60 original cosponsors. They include Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO). A full list of cosponsors is attached.
The bill has been endorsed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Organization for Marriage, Heritage Action, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Concerned Women for America.