Explaining the Right’s Debate Over the Senate’s Gay Marriage Bill

Sen. Mike Lee (Photo by Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Does the Senate’s gay marriage bill safeguard religious liberty or erode it? Different people give different answers, even if they’re both Republicans and both firmly support religious freedom.

A dozen Republican senators voted with Democrats last week to move forward with the bill—aimed at protecting same-sex and interracial marriages—after winning language explicitly addressing religious liberty and religious institutions. An earlier version of the bill passed the House over the summer, with 47 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting it. Now that the Senate bill has new provisions, the House will have to consider it again. The Senate is set to continue debate on the measure when the chamber returns from Thanksgiving recess, and it is poised to pass. 

Supporters of the bill say its religious freedom provisions are robust. But another set of Republican senators and conservative organizations have slammed it, calling for a farther-reaching amendment blocking the government from discriminating against people based on their beliefs about marriage. 

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