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Sempolinski opposes Respect for Marriage Act

Chautauqua County’s congressional representative plans to vote against the proposed “Respect for Marriage Act.”

The Senate recently passed bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex marriages, something the Associated Press called “an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.”

The bill, which would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are enshrined in federal law, was approved 61-36 on Tuesday, including support from 12 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation was “a long time coming” and part of America’s “difficult but inexorable march towards greater equality.”

The legislation now moves to the House for a final vote. U.S. Rep. Joe Sempolinski said he believes the vote will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 6, although that is not set in stone.

Sempolinski, who was elected in August and will remain in Congress until the end of the year, said during a conference call with area media from the 23rd Congressional District, that his concerns with the bill are based in freedom of religion.

According to Sempolinski, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, proposed an amendment that would have protected the tax-exempt status of organizations that have religious concerns with same-sex marriage, but that amendment was rejected.

“Not having those stopgaps and safeties in there makes me concerned about how this legislation would be used against people whose religious beliefs are not in accord with different definitions of marriage,” he said.

Sempolinski calls himself a “constitutional conservative” and says he is concerned that this legislation will be used to curtail religious freedom rights.

“The legislation does go beyond merely codifying same gender marriage. It does other things. It could have had protections in there but it didn’t. It could have had protections that were proposed by Senator Lee in the Senate that were not put in there,” he said.

While Lee voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, fellow Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney voted in favor of it.

The Associated Press reports that the 12 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the legislation after an amendment was added to provide exclusions for religious organizations, meaning those groups, “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

After adding the amendment, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered its support for passing the bill, though it added that its doctrine on “marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.” Both Lee and Romney are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The bill has gained steady momentum since the Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion, a ruling that included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex marriage could also come under threat.

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