FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Lawmakers from Arkansas and Oklahoma react to the passing of the Respect for Marriage Act in the House of Representatives on Dec. 8.
The House passed a bill to safeguard marriage equality, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk and marking the first time Congress has provided federal protections for same-sex marriage.
The legislation, titled the Respect for Marriage Act, passed in a 258-169-1 vote. Thirty-nine Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure, and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) was the only lawmaker to vote present.
Republicans Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma both voted against the bill.
Westerman voiced his opposition to the bill in a statement:
“The institution of marriage between one man and one woman predates any government, and the true meaning of marriage exists outside of government regulation. “The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ not only overreaches into that institution, but it directly threatens Americans’ constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion by opening individuals to litigation in retaliation for their deeply held beliefs and revoking or changing faith-based organizations’ tax-exempt status for their stance on same-sex marriage. Our constitution leaves no room for negotiation when it states Congress may make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. This bill is a clear example of government overreach and presents real dangers to Americans’ First Amendment rights, and for that reason, I cannot support it.”Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said it doesn’t have the same balance of protection for both sides that a relatively recent Supreme Court decision gives.
“This statute tries to be able to silence people that disagree and to say you’re now going to face litigation in the days ahead,” Lankford said. “This changes that to some can have an opinion and some have the ability to be able to sue you if you disagree.”
Lankford says he expects Congress to make changes to the Respect for Marriage Act when legal action starts over the bill.