Major pro-family groups congratulated the House of Representatives for passing the Marriage Protection Act, but said it is only a a short-term solution until a constitutional amendment can be passed.
The House approved a bill Thursday to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over same-sex marriage cases. The Marriage Protection Act was adopted 233 to 194. Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon and Democrat Jim Matheson voted for the legislation.
GOP sponsors described the bill as a fallback measure that would prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize gay marriages that are permitted by other states. The bill, drafted by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., would prevent such a ruling by denying all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that says that no state has to recognize same-sex unions established in any other state.
Robert Knight, from the Culture and Famly Institute said that "lawless judges are unilaterally destroying marriage by imposing a nonsensical version on us. They want to use the law to force us to say that a wedding without a bride is just like any other wedding. The mark of an oppressive government is when it forces its citizens to lie. Pretending that a marriage without a bride or without a groom is still a marriage would be a government-imposed lie that would reach down into our communities, undermine marriage itself and put more children at risk."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released a statement saying that the vote was necessary for two reasons: "Firstly, Congress is well within its authority to limit the ability of activist judges at the federal level to redefine marriage out of existence. Secondly, this vote will serve as a gauge for voters to see whether their Members of Congress truly believe that marriage should remain an institution reserved for one man and one woman."
"We applaud the House for passing this bill. However, because it is only a statute, like the Defense of Marriage Act, this measure is vulnerable to being struck down by an activist judge. For that reason, we will continue to push for both the House and Senate to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting marriage. Only then will the hands of activist judges at all levels be tied," Perkins added.
Sonja Swiatkiewicz, state issues analyst for Focus on the Family, agreed that the legislation is good, but said it's not nearly as strong as having a marriage-protection amendment that would constitutionally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"The Marriage Protection Act, if passed, will be effective in what it is designed to do -- rein in the federal courts by removing the federal DOMA from their review," she said. "However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that state DOMA statutes and constitutional amendments are not addressed by this bill and will be left as vulnerable after its passage as they are now."
"We must pass the Federal Marriage Amendment to protect marriage in this country — both at the national and state levels," Swiatkiewicz added.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., called the bill good legislation that America needs.
"Throughout history, civilizations that have undermined the family have ended up on the dustbin of history books, of failed civilizations," Akin said. "And so this is an absolutely crucial issue to all of us."
The bill is likely to face strong opposition in the Senate, where some Republicans joined with Democrats last week to block a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.