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Opinion: Respect for Marriage Act enshrines individual Liberties

As conservatives, the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and happiness are central to our philosophy. History demonstrates that when societies and governments protect those rights, greater equality and stability result. For too long in America, we’ve seen the federal government seek to impose limitations on our liberties. Whether it’s through intervention in our businesses or our wallets, the state should not restrict the free exercise of fundamental individual liberties.

Rather, as a free people, we should have equal access to our government, its institutions, and its protections. And of course, these protections must extend beyond the public sphere to our homes and personal lives.

The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges guarantees the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The protection of this fundamental liberty, however, should not rest solely on the jurisprudence of five lawyers. Rather, the people’s elected legislature should enshrine the freedom to marry in statute as an affirmation of our culture’s values.

That’s why it’s time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act and remove any uncertainty for thousands of loving and committed couples in Missouri today. Codifying the freedom to marry which was extended with the Obergefell decision ensures federal recognition of same-sex marriages while allowing states, individuals, and families to make their own decisions. Simply, it protects individual liberty.

If Congress needs another reason to support this legislation, it’s also the popular will of their constituents. In fact, 71 percent of Americans today, including a majority of registered Republicans, support the freedom to marry. Conservative leaders across the county have joined collective efforts urging the Senate to pass this bill, in the interest of our party – and our nation – moving forward. And dozens of faith organizations across the country have put out a similar call, rightfully describing the issue as “a matter of human dignity.”

Fundamental to our conservative philosophy is the fact that all Americans should be afforded the same rights, responsibilities, and consequences under the laws of our nation. Selecting who may or may not have those freedoms is not the business of the government. As we continue to modernize as a party, voting to codify these rights is a crucial step.

Missourians and their families all deserve respect and recognition regardless of their background. The U.S. House has already passed the Respect for Marriage Act; a vote that includes support from forty-seven Republican Members of Congress, including Missouri’s own Rep. Ann Wagner. We strongly encourage Republicans in the U.S. Senate to take our shared conservative values into account as they consider this important legislation. The Respect for Marriage Act is a chance to prove our role as defenders of individual liberty, and a chance for fellow members of the Party of Lincoln to once again enshrine personal freedom into American law.