Churches like Valley Bible Church in East Middlebury could lose tax-exempt status and face criminal charges if the Senate and Pres. Biden approve a national gay marriage law the U.S. House passed in July, with a ‘yes’ vote from Rep. Peter Welch.
By Guy Page
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) and every other U.S. House Democrat voted July 19 for the pro-gay marriage ‘Respect For Marriage Act.’
The bill, HR 8404, passed the House that day and is now in the U.S. Senate. If passed by the upper chamber and signed by President Joseph Biden, it would likely override protections for religious organizations included by the 2009 Vermont Legislature in the Act Related to Civil Marriage that legalized gay marriage.
Federal law supercedes state law. The 2009 Vermont law contains two key protections:
- An exemption for religious organizations: “ religious organization…. shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges” in connection with a gay marriage.
- Lawsuits by individuals against religious organizations are prohibited: “Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.”
By contrast, HR 8404 offers no religious exemption. And it specifically creates a “Private Right Of Action.—Any person who is harmed by a violation of subsection (a) may bring a civil action in the appropriate United States district court against the person who violated such subsection for declaratory and injunctive relief.”
Welch explained his support for HR 8404 in a July 19 tweet.
“For so many of us, marrying the person we love is enriching and beautiful,” Welch said. “It’s painful to think that someone would be denied that experience because of who they love. We must pass the Respect for Marriage Act to protect same sex marriage in America.”
Faith-based activist Rev. Ed Wheeler, pastor of Valley Bible Church in East Middlebury, worries about churches’ loss of freedom if HR 8404 becomes law.
“The plans are already being laid to use this law to strip the tax exempt status of any church, synagogue, or other institution that maintains the belief that marriage should be defined as the union of “one man and one woman,” Wheeler wrote in a letter to the editor. “The next step will be to criminalize organizations and individuals who hold this view. Thousands of years of history and fervently held convictions of millions of Americans are to be overturned by legislative tyranny. Most importantly, this is an act in defiance of Almighty God in whom some of us still trust.”
With many Americans sharing Wheeler’s sentiments, it is likely the ‘Respect for Marriage’ Act if passed would be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Categories: Society & Culture