Labrador bill would protect tax breaks for proponents of traditional marriage

Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador on Thursday introduced the bipartisan “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” to prohibit discrimination in the U.S. tax code against “individuals or institutions that exercise religious conscience regarding marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

As of Thursday’s introduction, Labrador’s H.R. 3133 has 60 Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors, including Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, an influential group that advocates conservative social and economic causes.

Labrador told the Statesman he wrote the bill as a response to the Supreme Court’s June decision striking down the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act’s barring of federal recognition of gay marriage.

Labrador noted efforts by proponents of gay marriage to strip tax exemptions from those who practice and promote traditional marriage, citing examples in the California legislature, Scottish Parliament and from his colleague, Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

The California Senate passed a bill to eliminate the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups such as the Boy Scouts of America that do not allow gay members. The sponsor, Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, withdrew the bill last week before it could be considered by the Assembly, but Lara vowed to revive the measure next year.

In Scotland, a measure legalizing same-sex marriage is moving through the legislative process and prompting concerns that clerics would be forced to perform such marriages in violation of their beliefs. The Scottish government says that’s not so, but the Church of Scotland says it may stop performing weddings.

Labrador said Rep. Blumenauer “said in a hearing here in the last few months that he did not believe that any religious institution that believed in traditional marriage should have tax-exempt status. So yes, it is a real concern.”

Laborador spokesman Todd Winer provided a video clip of Blumenauer in a June 4 hearing on the IRS’ scrutiny of non-profits. Blumenauer, however, doesn’t mention a religious institution supporting traditional marriage. His criticism was focused on the tax-exempt National Organization for Marriage. NOM formed in 2007 to advocate the passage of Proposition 8, a California gay marriage ban that the Supreme Court allowed to be struck down in a second June ruling.

Said Blumenauer: “I think having organizations parading as being social welfare organizations (under the IRS Code) and then being involved in political combat, harkens back to why the statute 100 years ago” prohibited such tax exemptions. “We ought to stop this regulatory interpretation from 1959 that invites people to raise money and keep it secret and to engage in political activity, some of it, I think, not necessarily prompting the social welfare of our country.”

Asked to explain how Labrador read Blumenauer’s opposition to tax-exempt political advocacy groups as a threat to remove the tax exemption from institutions practicing traditional marriage, Winer said, “These are faith-based organizations that want to protect traditional marriage. I think it shows kind of a mindset that is kind of ominous.”

Labrador said he chose the tax exemption for religion as a practical response the Supreme Court’s ruling that was capable of passing Congress.

“There were all sorts of different angles that we could take,” Labrador said. “There were some people who thought we should pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court decision. Other people thought we should reemphasize DOMA and all those things.

“And I just thought: What can we get done? What can pass the House? What can pass the Senate? And I thought protecting those religious institutions who have a conscience right to believe in any way that they want to believe would be the easiest for us to actually pass some legislation.”

Labrador said his bill also would apply to individuals. “I, as a taxpayer, will not have my deduction taken away from me just because my religion believes in traditional marriage.” (Labrador is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

“My bill is not taking away anything from anybody,” he said. “It’s not making a determination on whether gay marriage is appropriate or not. It’s just reinforcing that religious institutions and individuals have a conscience right to believe any way they want about traditional marriage.”

Thursday’s news release on the bill and the list of Labrador’s co-sponsors follow:

LABRADOR LEADS BIPARTISAN COALITION IN INTRODUCING MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Rep. Steve Scalise, Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced a landmark bipartisan bill today to protect freedom of conscience on the issue of marriage. Their bill – the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act – would prohibit discrimination through the federal tax code against individuals or institutions that exercise religious conscience regarding marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Regardless of your ideology, we can all agree about the importance of religious liberty in America,” said Rep. Labrador. “Our bill will protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. As President Obama said, ‘Americans hold a wide range of views’ on marriage and ‘maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom’ is ‘vital.’ We agree.

“Our bill will ensure tolerance for individuals and organizations that affirm traditional marriage, protecting them from adverse federal action. I’m proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this bill, and will strongly advocate for its passage.”

Most religious institutions fall within the 501(c) portion of the U.S. tax code, which allows for tax exemption. Under the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, no individual or institution which celebrates and defines marriage as between one man and one woman would be denied or lose exemption from taxation provided for under federal law.

“I commend Congressman Raul Labrador for bringing forth this bill and leading on this important issue. As we’ve seen with the IRS scandals, nonprofit organizations and those who support them may be targeted and punished for their beliefs and principles,” said Chairman Scalise. “Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage may embolden those in government who want to impose their views of marriage on faith-based organizations. We need this strong legislation to protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Raul’s bill does exactly that, ensuring respect and tolerance for those who affirm traditional marriage.”

“It is critical that institutions which hold the fundamental belief that marriage is between one man and one woman be protected in their convictions,” said Rep. McIntyre. “The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act will ensure that this right is protected, and they are not penalized for their beliefs and values.”

“The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would help preserve the most basic rights of all Americans: the right to religious liberty and the rights of conscience,” Rep. Lipinski said. “The idea that individuals, churches and institutions could be penalized for not endorsing a practice in opposition to their core beliefs goes against the fundamental principles espoused by our founding fathers. I ask my colleagues in the House to act on this legislation swiftly to discourage the potential discrimination against those who simply choose to exercise their rights as Americans.”

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act has over 60 original cosponsors. They include Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO). A full list of cosponsors is attached.

The bill has been endorsed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Organization for Marriage, Heritage Action, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Concerned Women for America.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

The co-sponsorship list provided by Labrador:

Democrats:

Rep. Dan Lipinkski

Rep. Mike McIntyre

Republicans:

Rep. Joseph Pitts

Rep. Vicky Hartzler

Rep. Steve Scalise

Rep. Trent Franks

Rep. Mark Meadows

Rep. John Fleming

Rep. Scott Garrett

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Steve Daines

Rep. Charles Boustany

Rep. Michele Bachmann

Rep. Ann Wagner

Rep. Chris Collins

Rep. Stevan Pearce

Rep. Tim Walberg

Rep. Diane Black

Rep. Randy Hultgren

Rep. Paul Broun

Rep. Gregg Harper

Rep. Bill Cassidy

Rep. Kevin Cramer

Rep. Robert Aderholt

Rep. Mick Mulvaney

Rep. Rob Bishop

Rep. Todd Rokita

Rep. Mark Sanford

Rep. Tom Marino

Rep. Billy Long

Rep. Tom Graves

Rep. Pete Sessions

Rep. Bill Flores

Rep. Jeff Duncan

Rep. Jim Jordan

Rep. Randy Weber

Rep. Bill Huizenga

Rep. Marlin Stutzman

Rep. Jack Kingston

Rep. Doug LaMalfa

Rep. Cynthia Lummis

Rep. Matt Salmon

Rep. Tom Cotton

Rep. Mike Kelly

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

Rep. Andy Harris

Rep. Jeff Miller

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio

Rep. Ralph Hall

Rep. Mike Rogers (AL)

Rep. Doug Lamborn

Rep. Steven Palazzo

Rep. Keith Rothfus

Rep. David Phil Roe

Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Rep. Louie Gohmert

Rep. Chris Stewart

Rep. Chris Smith

Rep. Steve Chabot

Rep. Steve Southerland

Rep. Walter Jones

Rep. Kevin Brady

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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