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Port: On Respect for Marriage Act, Rep. Armstrong is right and Sen. Cramer is wrong

Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer should vote to support the Respect for Marriage Act. It's the constitutional choice. The limited-government choice. The federalist choice. The popular choice. And, quite frankly, the choice most in line with conservative notions about the importance of marriage and family.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer speaks at a policy summit hosted by the Americans for Prosperity-North Dakota on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at the Avalon Events Center in Fargo.
David Samson / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — I've never understood why opposition to same-sex marriage is seen as a conservative position.

I'm not here to argue with anyone's theology, and I oppose any government policy that would require a church to hold a ceremony for a union they find immoral, or for a baker to make a cake for a union that violates his conscience.

But as a practical matter, opposition to same-sex marriage is an authoritarian, big-government position. Why should the government be in the business of telling consenting adults who they can love?

If conservatives mean what they say about the social and economic importance of marriage and family, that they're stabilizing influences that make for better societies, then why wouldn't we want our friends and neighbors from the LGBT community to get married and have families?

Believing, as a personal matter, that marriage should only be between a man and a woman is fine, but we live in a free society, and I don't know what business conservatives have trying to impose their morality on their neighbors, or the church down the street.


The Respect for Marriage Act, which has already passed in the U.S. House with 47 Republican votes and is now before the U.S. Senate, would require that a marriage recognized in one state is recognized in all states.

This concept is on strong constitutional footing. Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. constitution obliges states to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state."

The RMA makes it clear that "full faith and credit" includes things like same-sex and interracial marriages, which ought to appeal to state's rights federalists.

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Now that bill is before the U.S. Senate, and North Dakota's Republican senators ought to support it.

Sen. John Hoeven hasn't said how he'll vote one way or another, though he has said he maintains his personal belief that marriage should only be between one man and one woman .

Sen. Kevin Cramer is very much against the law. He said recently that voting for it would be a "terrible mistake." He said he's heard from North Dakotans, and they oppose the law. Further, he claims that the law would be an affront to religious liberty. “In many respects, passing a bill like this really sends a pretty strong message that religious beliefs don’t matter," he said .

That puts Cramer at odds with Rep. Kelly Armstrong, his fellow North Dakota Republican, who voted for the bill in the House.

Armstrong says he is satisfied with the law's protections for religious liberty. "Importantly, nothing in this legislation requires religious institutions or private businesses to perform marriages, protecting Americans religious liberties and First Amendment rights," he told me in July when he announced his support for the bill .


As for the law's popularity, Cramer's view on same-sex marriage is very much in the minority in America these days. According to a Gallup poll released in June, support for same-sex marriage is up to 71%, a record high, and and 45 points above the 26% support measured by this poll in 1996.

Even support among weekly church-goers has doubled, from 20% in 2004 to 40% in 2022.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong
Congressman Kelly Armstrong was among the 47 Republicans in the U.S. House to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act.
Photo by Kyle Martin

While we don't get a lot of public polling in North Dakota in general, what data we do have shows growing support.

A 2014 Pew Foundation survey found a plurality of 48% in favor of same-sex marriage, versus 46% opposed.

A 2017 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found 53% of North Dakotans in favor of legal same-sex marriage, and just 35% opposed .

That same group's 2021 survey found 69% in favor, and 30% opposed.

Again, I don't begrudge anyone their personal convictions, even if I don't necessarily like them. I have no problem if someone such as Sen. Cramer, or Sen. Hoeven, oppose same-sex marriage as a matter of personal opinion. But what's before them is the law.

Do we want the legality of a person's marriage to hinge on which ZIP code they're living in?


Don't we want a free society, where consenting adults can live and love as they wish?

Hoeven and Cramer should vote to support the Respect for Marriage Act. It's the constitutional choice. The limited-government choice. The federalist choice. The popular choice. And, quite frankly, the choice most in line with conservative notions about the importance of marriage and family.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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