Cruz, Lee introduce ‘State Marriage Defense Act’

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (back left) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) (front) depart the Senate floor after their speeches before the night-time budget vote at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (back left) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) (front) depart the Senate floor after their speeches before the night-time budget vote at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah introduced the "State Marriage Defense Act" on Wednesday. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Tex.) introduced similar legislation in the House in early January. If passed, the bill would cede marriage definition to states for federal purposes, which would effectively reverse the gains same-sex couples made after the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by the Supreme Court in the summer.

In a statement released Thursday, Cruz said, “I support traditional marriage. Under President Obama, the federal government has tried to re-define marriage, and to undermine the constitutional authority of each state to define marriage consistent with the values of its citizens. The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states."

Weber released a similar statement about his bill, which has 28 co-sponsors, on Jan. 9: “The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the Federal Government. For too long, however, the Federal Government has slowly been eroding state’s rights by promulgating rules and regulations through federal agencies."

The Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage have signaled support for both the House and Senate versions of the proposed legislation. In a statement released Thursday, FRC president Tony Perkins said, "The Department of Justice (DOJ) is the latest agency to announce a policy of recognizing same sex couples as 'married' — even if they live in a state that does not. These announcements not only contradict other agency guidance, but also undermine state laws on marriage, a result directly condemned by the Windsor Court's ruling. The president is using the power of his federal agencies as a backdoor to expand marriage redefinition to every state in America. This lawlessness must stop."

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications and marketing at the Human Rights Campaign — an LGTB civil rights organization — said in a statement today, "This is just another attempt to undermine the valid marriages of loving same-sex couples. We will works with our allies on the Hill, on both sides of the aisle, to make sure this bill does not pass."

Lee introduced another bill regarding same-sex marriages in December 2013, the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act." The bill would prevent organizations from losing tax-exempt status for "exercising their religious conscience rights," as Lee terms it, which would include refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. A federal appeals court is currently deciding the legality of same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Cruz has previously stated his beliefs about same-sex marriage and states' rights. On "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in November, he said, "I support marriage between one man and one woman. But I also think it's a question for the states. Some states have made decisions one way on gay marriage. Some states have made decisions the other way. And that's the great thing about our Constitution, different states can make different decisions depending on the values of their citizens."

Given the Democratic majority in the Senate, it is almost certain that Cruz and Lee's bill will not pass, and President Obama, whose administration stopped defending the law in court before the Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor, will not sign a bill that lets states decide whether same-sex couples were eligible for federal benefits.

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