Evangelicals Fear Senate Republicans May Bolt on Defending Marriage

A number of high profile evangelical leaders wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — urging him to stand firm against the “Respect for Marriage Act.” The legislation, which passed with significant support from House Republicans, would codify same-sex marriage. Alliance Defending Freedom CEO Michael Farris joined the Todd Starnes Show to warn Christians about what could happen if the legislation becomes law. He said that every Christian ministry and church in the nation could be targeted by sue-happy LGBT activists. Listen to the entire interview above. Following is a rush transcript of the interview between Todd and Farris. Click here to join Todd’s private Facebook page for conservatives.

Is marriage between one man and one woman only?

TODD STARNES: [00:00:51] Let’s go to the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line, our good friend from Alliance Defending Freedom, he is the president and CEO Michael Farris. Michael, good to have you back with us today. [00:01:00][8.6]

MICHAEL FARRIS: [00:01:01] Great to be with you, Todd. Thank you so much. [00:01:02][1.4]

STARNES: [00:01:03] Michael, you’ve written a letter here. And I want you to explain to our listeners why you have concerns about this “Respect for Marriage Act.” [00:01:10][7.5]

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FARRIS: [00:01:12] Well, the basic problem is that it goes well beyond Obergefell. But I will say at the outset, even if that’s all it did, to codify Obergefell. That’s not a good idea. Think what would have happened if Congress had codified Roe v. Wade and we had that in our way when the Dobbs case came along. It would be an extremely difficult factor to overcome. But the plain truth is this act goes well beyond codifying Obergefell. It allows for any state definition of marriage to be federally enforced. So if a state decides we’re going to go polygamy or plural marriages or all kinds of things that are out there. And, you know, in the left’s lexicon these days, that could be a problem. The IRS can be sent against nonprofit organizations, denying them their tax exempt status if they fail to adhere to this definition of marriage. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli predicted that would be a problem. He was representing the Democrat administration in the Supreme Court in the Obergefell case, and he admitted that tax exemptions could be a problem under this kind of regime. And so there are a variety of things. And finally, the nonprofits on the other side, the activists on the other side could come after organizations that have any connection to the government whatsoever. If you’re running a foster care program, if you have any kind of government connection in your portfolio as a nonprofit, they will claim that you’re acting under color of state law and that you must honor the definition of marriage that this follows. So it’s taking aim at all the people who hold to the traditional view of marriage and trying to force us to bow the knee. [00:03:06][114.5]

STARNES: [00:03:07] Now, a number of people have signed on to this letter. Franklin Graham, our good friend Kelly Shackelford, over at First Liberty Institute, Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, among others. I want to zero in on the churches and the religious groups. And you say that they could have big bull’s eyes on them. What do you mean by that? Why would these and how could these groups be targeted? [00:03:34][26.9]

FARRIS: [00:03:36] Well, there is a jurisdictional provision in the act that says that you must be acting under color of state law. And if you adopted only the traditional view of that, that would mean it binds only government officials. But the activist left are litigating new definitions of under color of state law, which means that if you were able to participate in an educational choice program where the states give you money under the, you know, the new Arizona approach, for example, they could say your Christian school is now acting under color of state law because it’s receiving state funds. And if that new definition of under color of state law is accepted as the left is litigating and trying to get these definitions accepted, then the religious organizations that are participating in those kinds of programs would be subject to the law potentially. That’s how it would work. [00:04:38][61.7]

STARNES: [00:04:39] Michael Farris, by the way, on the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line President, CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom. Michael, were you surprised by the number of Republicans that joined Democrats in the House? And do you have concerns that some Republicans might join on the Senate side and send this to the president? [00:04:57][17.8]

FARRIS: [00:04:59] We do have concerns about these Republicans in the Senate. And yes, I was surprised by the number. I didn’t think there were that many without the discretion and courage to stand up for what is right. But, you know, I guess after 40 years of doing this, I’m not terribly surprised by anything anymore. But the question is whether there are going to be ten Republicans that do the wrong thing in the Senate. There are a couple of known suspects that are pretty well gone and lost causes on that. But we hope that, you know, Senator McConnell will get the message to the Republicans they need to hold the line and not give the Democrats a victory here, that it’s purely a stunt from their side and it’s a desire to rally their base. And what this will do demoralize our base that if the idea is that Congress can override the constitutional principles, that marriage belongs to the states, well, this is a warm up act for Congress can override the ruling of the Supreme Court that the right to life belongs to the states as well. And so this is an important principle that we’re fighting on right now, and that is the core values of this country. Right to life, religious freedom and many other things depend on allowing the states to do the right thing on a systematic basis. And we don’t need federal interference on these kinds of issues. [00:06:26][86.9]

STARNES: [00:06:26] And again, when you look at the broader issue and look at it through a legal lens. Roe v Wade was not about abortion. It was about the federal government overstepping its power and authority, which, quite frankly, is the same issue. And that was the point Justice Thomas was making in his argument as Obergefell. So this is a matter of righting a judicial wrong somewhere down the line. But to your point now, this has become a political hot potato. [00:06:59][32.8]

FARRIS: [00:07:01] Indeed. And, yes, this bill is aimed squarely at Justice Thomas. Republicans should not be turning their back on one of the most important Supreme Court justices as long as, frankly, all of them are important. But, you know, Justice Thomas has stood up for the right principles time and again, and for us to turn and run in fear when we’re right on every level on this issue, we’re right as a matter of original constitutional law. We’re right as a matter of basic policy. We’re right as a matter of federalism. So on all those scores, Republicans should be standing up for what’s right and not, you know, trying to kowtow to the left. They’re not going to win leftist votes by doing the wrong thing here. This is simply an effort to see if they can embarrass people who want to stand up for the right thing and ultimately punish people who stand up for the right. [00:07:57][56.0]

STARNES: [00:07:59] Have you heard from Mr. McConnell yet? [00:08:00][1.1]

FARRIS: [00:08:01] Not yet. I think we will hear something, but it would be too quick to expect anything right now. [00:08:09][8.3]

STARNES: [00:08:10] And I suspect and I think it’s fair to say that should the Republican Party bolt on this particular issue and jettison this particular culture war issue, there’s going to be blowback within the evangelical community. [00:08:22][12.2]

FARRIS: [00:08:24] Yes. I mean, and not just evangelicals and, you know, a high number of evangelicals. Yes. But there are a lot of people in this country that believe in traditional marriage and believe in federalism. When you combine those things, that’s a good part of our base. And we shouldn’t forget that. It wasn’t all that long ago in political terms, when the vast majority of states, Republicans and Democrats alike, were voting for traditional marriage. Why do we think we need to turn tail on this at this point in time? You know, the day that President Obama got elected, California voted to protect traditional marriage. And so why we lose the lessons of those votes is beyond me. [00:09:07][43.4]

STARNES: [00:09:08] Alright, well, Michael, we’re going to leave it there. It’s a very well-written letter. Let’s hope that the Senate Republicans pay very close attention to the concerns that you and so many others are raising in the Christian community. And we really appreciate the great work you and your team are doing at ATF, Michael. [00:09:24][15.9]

FARRIS: [00:09:25] Well, thank you for getting the word out, Todd. You’re one of the champions in telling the truth about what’s going on in Washington. [00:09:31][5.7]