Lankford Pushes for Equal Protection in the Respect for Marriage Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, which has the potential to cause even more division among Americans.


“The Respect for Marriage Act has serious problems in the text that will create years of litigation and distrust across the country. The bill was intentionally written to exclude religious and conscience protections for individuals, non-profits, and businesses by creating a new ‘private right of action’ lawsuit option to file charges against any entity that partners with local or state governments. All Americans should be honored, and no one should be discriminated against. But, as President Obama stated in 2015, ‘Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs.’ Today’s vote unnecessarily chose to run over millions of people who hold those deeply held beliefs,” said Lankford. 




Lankford introduced an amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act to protect people and entities of faith from discrimination based on their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage. Lankford’s amendment narrows the scope of the application of the bill, strikes the private right of action that would be used to target entities of faith, clarifies that the bill will not be used to penalize individuals and entities who hold to a traditional view of marriage, and prevents faith-based organizations that partner with the government from being forced to either compromise their beliefs or end their government partnerships. The amendment failed by a vote of 45-52.


Lankford remains the strongest voice for religious liberty, both domestically and internationally, in the Senate. Existing laws that protect Americans’ First Amendment rights, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, continue to see numerous challenges from Congress, as people of faith continue to be targeted from all directions. But the Supreme Court continues to affirm the First Amendment protections that keep the federal government from forcing people to violate their religious and moral beliefs. Lankford applauded the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and he submitted an amicus brief in the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, calling for the Supreme Court to review a circuit court decision that prohibits a Colorado business owner from exercising her free speech and religious liberty rights.


Lankford also supported the Supreme Court’s unanimous holding in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that Philadelphia was wrong to require Catholic Social Services to shed their faith in order to serve children and families and reaffirmed that no one should be discriminated against or compelled by the government to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. Lankford signed on to a brief asking the Supreme Court to take the case.


Lankford introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect faith-based child welfare providers, like Catholic Social Services, from being discriminated against for acting in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs. Lankford also introduced his Conscience Protection Act to protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers, including health insurance plans, from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions.