As the Senate inches closer to a vote on same-sex marriage protections, some Republican lawmakers are raising religious liberty concerns.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and others reportedly want assurances that the “Respect for Marriage Act” would not harm religious individuals or organizations before they throw their support behind it, according to Andrew Solender, who covers Congress for Axios.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office confirmed to Solender that “religious liberty and conscience protections” are the focus of current debates.

Romney and other Republicans have said that a faith-related amendment to the bill may be necessary.

“We want to make sure that there’s no infringement on your individual right or any entity’s individual right to express their own beliefs from a religion standpoint,” said Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., to Axios.

What’s in the same-sex marriage bill?

The “Respect for Marriage Act” aims to safeguard same-sex marriage from future Supreme Court interference. It became a priority for the Democratic Party after the justices overturned Roe v. Wade in June, as the Deseret News reported this summer.

The bill would prevent states from refusing to recognize same-sex marriages and ensure that same-sex marriages are given equal protection as heterosexual marriages under federal law. It passed the House of Representatives in July, but it’s been stalled in the Senate since then.

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Which Republican senators support the same-sex marriage bill?

The “Respect for Marriage Act” passed the House with bipartisan support, signaling that the Republican Party is more accepting of same-sex marriage today than it was in the past, Time reported.

“Opposition to same-sex marriage has almost entirely disappeared from the Democratic Party and has shrunk within the GOP,” the article said.

Overall, 68% of U.S. adults expressed support for gay marriage in 2021, up from 54% in 2014, according to Public Religion Research Institute.

“Republicans are now divided over same-sex marriage (48% support, 50% oppose), while Democrats and independents express strong support,” the Institute reported in March.

So far, four Republican senators have expressed pretty strong commitment to voting for the same-sex marriage bill: Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Time reported. Several others, including Romney, remain on the fence.

Would the same-sex marriage bill harm people of faith?

The Time article noted that opponents of same-sex marriage have raised religious freedom concerns in recent weeks in hopes of persuading Republican fence-sitters to vote against the “Respect for Marriage Act.” Organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and Family Research Council argue that the bill would fuel attacks on religious business owners and faith-based social service organizations.

“The consequences for religious liberty in this bill are serious,” wrote David Closson, director of the Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview, in July.

Leaders from the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel of America said in a recent statement that passing the bill would be an “unfortunate step.”

“Religious liberty and freedom of expression remain uncertain, and faith-based communities and institutions that adhere to bedrock notions of marriage and gender are vilified and live under a cloud of disdain and retribution,” the statement said.

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Republicans who ignore or downplay these religious freedom concerns risk “alienating” some of their base voters, Time reported.

What will happen next?

The Senate recently wrapped up its August recess, and Democratic leaders are hoping to move forward with the vote on the same-sex marriage bill in the coming weeks, Axios reported.

“With in-person talks underway, senators whipping GOP support for the bill projected confidence that the votes will be there when it’s brought to the floor,” the article noted.

Correction: This article initially referred to the same-sex marriage bill as the “Defense of Marriage Act” on first reference. It is the “Respect for Marriage Act.”

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