The Story: The U.S. House—including 47 House Republicans—voted to codify same-sex marriage into federal law, officially abandoning support for traditional marriage.
The Background: On Tuesday, the House voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), a bill that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and provides statutory authority for same-sex marriages.
DOMA is a federal law that restricts federal marriage benefits and requires interstate marriage recognition only for opposite-sex marriages. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
However, the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor struck down one section of DOMA in 2013. Two years later, the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges stripped away the remaining power of DOMA by requiring all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
RFMA replaces the provisions in DOMA and defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as any marriage that is valid under state law. The bill also requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
RFMA had been floating around Congress since 2009, but it gained more attention after Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the high court should “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell.”
Of the 204 Republicans who voted on the bill, 47 (23 percent) voted in support. All 267 Democrats also supported the bill, including 11 who had voted for DOMA in 1996.
What It Means: There are four obvious takeaways from the vote on RFMA.
First, Christian politicians no longer look to the Christian view of marriage to compel them to support traditional marriage.
Perhaps in 2022 it’s naive to think they should, since, as one pastor famously said in 2017, we’re not electing them “to be a children’s Sunday School teacher.” Still, it’s shocking that an institution overwhelmingly composed of Christians would abandon even the pretense of supporting the Christian position. In the House, 88 percent of Representatives identify as Christian, and yet 63 percent voted to abandon the Christian view of marriage. (Whether you consider it a first, second, or third order doctrine, the orthodox Christian position on marriage is that we cannot endorse same-sex marriage.)
Second, Christian politicians may not be influenced by Scripture, but they are swayed by polling data.
When it comes to how they’ll vote on the issue, many Christian politicians are more concerned about poll results than what Scripture has to say about marriage. About 63 percent of Americans identify as Christian, and yet 71 percent of Americans also support same-sex marriage—meaning there’s a significant overlap between those who consider themselves to be Christian and those who support same-sex marriage.
Almost all of this change came over the past decade. The issue gained majority support among Protestants in 2017 and among Republicans in 2021. The lone holdout is weekly church attenders. But even in this category, two-fifths (40 percent) support same-sex marriage while only 58 percent oppose it.
Third, politicians won’t be the ones to save traditional marriage.
Democrats officially embraced same-sex marriage in their platform in 2012. That same year President Barack Obama finally stopped flip-flopping on the issue and became the first U.S. president to support same-sex marriage. He also may be the last U.S. president to publicly oppose same-sex marriage.
In 2016, the GOP party platform included a plank that said, “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society . . .” The platform also “condemned” the rulings in Windsor and Obergefell.” But a year later the party’s leader, Donald Trump, said Windsor and Obergefell were settled law: “These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And I’m fine with that.”
The GOP did not adopt a new platform in 2020, choosing instead to continue with the one from 2016. But it was clear even then that the new, more socially liberal Republican Party was not going to stand in unified support of traditional marriage. The vote on RFMA was confirmation of that reality. As Albert Mohler wrote in his recent column, “America’s political class intends to support same-sex marriage and move along—no turning back.”
Finally, the church must continue to fight for marriage.
It is discouraging how quickly our politicians and fellow citizens have abandoned the biblical, historic, and traditional view of marriage. But instead of letting that lead us to despair, we must set our resolve to the task ahead. Because marriage requires the specific form of a union of man and woman (Gen. 2:24), applying the term to same-sex unions alters the very concept of what a marriage is for and what functions it takes. We must undertake the slow, grueling, tiring process of reeducating our neighbors and reorienting them to the reality that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
The church must commit to speaking the truth of the gospel and how it applies to this issue. Specifically, we need to make it clear—especially to our neighbors in the pews beside us—that we cannot love our neighbor and tolerate unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the “go along to get along” mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with our all-wise God or with the foolish idol-makers who promote same-sex marriage?