Mississippi Senators Wicker, Hyde-Smith say the legislation is unnecessary and raise concerns over First Amendment rights, religious liberties for those who believe in traditional marriage.

On Wednesday, 12 Republicans in the U.S. Senate crossed party lines to move the bill titled the “Respect for Marriage Act” forward to a final vote in the chamber.  The bill, H.R. 8404, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and would codify same-sex and interracial marriage, removing any rule or regulation that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Since the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year that overturned Roe v. Wade, many Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have made the claim that the Court or Republican lawmakers would next consider rolling back same-sex or interracial marriage.  However, there has been no Republican effort at the state or federal level to do so.

Even still, Democrats in Congress, in the majority in both chambers for a few more weeks, chose to use the rhetoric to move the bill forward.

Mississippi Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith were not among the dozen Republicans supporting the measure. Both lawmakers believe the bill to be unnecessary and a threat to religious freedoms as well as to the First Amendment rights of Americans who hold that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“I have always believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and I have grave concerns this legislation does not sufficiently protect the First Amendment rights of Americans who have a sincere religious objection to same-sex marriage,” Wicker said. “For these reasons, I cannot in good conscience vote to support this legislation.”

Senator Hyde-Smith went further, saying she could not overlook the Biden Administration’s willingness to infringe on liberties and rights of those who do not agree with the Democrats’ “radical agenda.”

“The measure presented to the Senate does not sufficiently protect the religious liberties and First Amendment rights of individuals, businesses, and religious-oriented schools and organizations that believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I cannot dismiss or overlook the willingness of this administration to infringe on religious liberties and other rights that don’t mesh with its radical agenda.”

Despite efforts by supporters to amend the measure to address religious liberty protections, Hyde-Smith’s office says the legislation continues to be opposed by, among others, the Concerned Women for America, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Family Research Council, Heritage Action, Lifeline Children Services, Religious Freedom Institute, and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

More Republicans could join the majority when the Senate votes on final passage of the bill. For now, the 12 Republicans who voted for the legislation were:

  • Susan Collins, Maine
  • Rob Portman, Ohio
  • Thom Tillis, North Carolina
  • Mitt Romney, Utah
  • Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
  • Roy Blunt, Missouri
  • Richard Burr, North Carolina
  • Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia
  • Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming
  • Dan Sullivan, Alaska
  • Todd Young, Indiana
  • Joni Ernst, Iowa

The bill passed the U.S. House in July by a vote of 267-157 with 47 House Republicans voting for its passage. Democrat Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-2) supported the legislation while Mississippi’s three Republican Congressmen Trent Kelly (MS-1), Michael Guest (MS-3) and Steven Palazzo (MS-4) opposed it.  However, before it can reach President Biden’s desk, it will need to be sent back to the House for a vote to approve changes.  This, presumably, will be done before January when the Republican majority officially assumes control of the House.

President Biden has said that he will sign the legislation into law.

“Love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. “The Respect for Marriage Act will ensure that LGBTQI+ couples and interracial couples are respected and protected equally under federal law, and provide more certainty to these families since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.”