Florida

Florida’s U.S. Senators vote no on ‘Respect for Marriage Act,’ citing religious freedom concerns

WASHINGTON — The Respect for Marriage Act, codifying the right for same-sex couples to marry, has passed the U.S. Senate, garnering bipartisan support, but Florida’s two U.S. Senators were among 36 Republicans who voted against the bill.

Jacksonville resident Neil Bridgers married his husband Robert Morgan in 2017, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

>>> STREAM ACTION NEWS JAX LIVE <<<

“He is in the in the Florida Air National Guard. So, he was headed on a deployment and we were like, you know, we knew we wanted to get married, so we were like let’s do this before this deployment happens,” Bridgers said.

But nearly five years later, the overturning of Roe v. Wade threw their right to marry into question.

“Thomas sent his dissent down saying, you know that, he put eyes on this to overturn this next,” Bridgers said.

The Respect for Marriage Act would act as a stopgap in the event Obergefell, the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, were overturned.

Read: Florida Sen. Rick Scott optimistic ahead of Georgia runoff, balance of power in the Senate at stake

But this week in a show of bipartisan support, the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, codifying the right for same sex marriages to be recognized nationwide.

However, Florida’s U.S. Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio both voted against the bill.

“I don’t know many Republicans that don’t support the decision with regard to same-sex marriage, but you do have to preserve freedom of religion,” Scott said.

Read: House votes to block rail strike

The bill does include religious protections for nonprofit religious organizations, including churches, whose “principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion”.

In a statement, Rubio expressed concerns the definition leaves faith-based organizations exposed.

“Nuns running orphanages will find themselves in court if it becomes law. That’s outrageous. No faith-based organization will be immune from the insanity. Christian. Jewish. Muslim. Everyone,” Rubio said.

Read: Coronavirus: Former President Bill Clinton tests positive for COVID-19

Scott told us his no vote came down to a lack of protections for private businesses.

“This bill is gonna give a private right of action for people to be suing, you know, private businesses. That’s not what this country ought to be doing,” Scott said.

Brandon Wolf is a survivor of the Pulse Night Club shooting and Press Secretary for Equality Florida.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are way out of touch here,” Wolf said.

He argued religious protections are already embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

“And by the way, part of the reason that this was a bipartisan vote, is because the Senate went out of its way and bent over backwards to reiterate those already granted protections,” Wolf said.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

With or without the support of his own U.S. Senators, Bridgers said he still sees the bill’s passage as an overall victory, not only for him and his husband, but also for their adopted son Mason.

“We’re in a fight whether our son can talk about his two dads when he goes to public school right now and that’s disgusting and it’s scary is what it is. And to know that this is on its way to being the law of the land is one weight off of our shoulders, but like I said previously, we still have such a fight to go,” Bridgers said.

The bill is expected to pass the U.S. House in the coming days before heading to the President’s desk.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.