By Calvin Freiburger
Largely overlooked amid all the coverage and speculation about Republican support for Democrat legislation to federally codify recognition of same-sex “marriage” is the fact that the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” would also force the federal government to recognize polygamy if and when a state legalizes it.
Introduced as part of Democrats’ efforts to stoke fear over the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, HR 8404 would repeal the longstanding (but unenforced) Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage as a man-woman union in federal law and protected states’ rights to do the same; federally recognize any “marriage” lawfully performed by any state; and force every state to recognize any “marriage” of any other state “between two individuals,” without regard for “the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.”
Democrats are selling the bill as a way to ensure homosexual unions are unaffected by a hypothetical future ruling overturning 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which forced all 50 states to recognize same-sex “marriages.” Conservatives ranging from Justice Clarence Thomas to Sen. Ted Cruz have called for the ruling to be reconsidered, but there is no serious expectation that such a case will reach the Supreme Court in the near future.
Curiously, HR 8404’s “two individuals” language only applies to states, not to the federal government. So while states would only have to recognize one another’s same-sex “marriages,” the federal government would have to recognize any new “marriage” arrangement a state comes up with, such as a marriage of more than two people.
“Imagine if Utah or some other state decides to grant legal recognition to polygamous marriages. Section 4 would require the federal government to do the same,” George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin wrote. “If a person has multiple spouses under state law, all of them could potentially be eligible for various federal tax deductions and other benefits that are reserved for married people (though they would also all be subject to the marriage ‘tax penalty’).”
The narrower language for states gives lawmakers in less-liberal districts something they can cite to claim to moderate constituents that the bill is less extreme than they fear, while the inconsistency between federal and state standards would likely set the stage for a new “inequality” for left-wing activists to rail against and a more liberal Supreme Court to dismantle in the future.
Even so, 47 House Republicans joined every House Democrat in voting to pass HR 8404, with the blessing of House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has declined to stake out a public position on the legislation until the chamber’s Democrat majority leader, Chuck Schumer, announces a decision on bringing it to the floor. As speculation continues on whether Schumer can find 10 GOP senators to join Democrats to pass it, the bill’s ramifications for polygamy have gone largely unmentioned.
LifeSiteNews is currently running a VoterVoice campaign attempting to make Republican senators aware of grassroots opposition to HB 8404, and vote against it accordingly.