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Andrew Hartzler, nephew of anti-LGBTQ+ U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri -- she is married to his father's brother -- recorded his thoughts in a video on TikTok, saying, "Today, a United States congresswoman, my Aunt Vicky, started crying because gay people like me can get married."
He then included a clip from her speech Thursday before the House of Representatives voted on the Respect for Marriage Act, which will write marriage equality into federal law. "I hope and pray that my colleagues find the courage to join me in opposing this misguided and this dangerous bill," Vicky Hartzler said. Andrew Hartzler then continued, "So despite coming out to my aunt this past February, I guess she's still just as much as a homophobe."
After cutting to his aunt saying, "Obergefell [the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling] is not in danger, but people and institutions of faith are," Andrew Hartzler came back to counter.
"Aunt Vicky, that's not right," he said. "Institutions of faith like religious universities are not being silenced. They're being empowered by the U.S. government to discriminate against tens of thousands of LGBTQ students because of religious exemptions, but they still receive federal funding."
And he has direct knowledge and experience of this. Andrew Hartzler is part of a lawsuit that seeks to end an exemption to Title IX policies, one that allows schools to receive federal funds while still discriminating against students based on sexual orientation. He had attended Oral Roberts University, a religiously affiliated school that practices such discrimination.
In further response to his aunt's statement that the Respect for Marriage Act implies "submit to our ideology or be silenced," Andrew Hartzler went to the heart of the matter.
"It's more like you want the power to force your religious beliefs onto everyone else, and because you don't have that power, you feel like you're being silenced, but you're not. You're just gonna have to learn to coexist with all of us," he said. "And I'm sure it's not that hard."
Despite Rep. Hartlzer's tears, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which will protect same-sex marriages, guaranteeing federal rights and benefits, as well as repeal the Defense of Marriage Act -- DOMA -- which prevented the federal government from recognizing them and allowed states to deny recognition to same-sex marriages performed in other states. DOMA has been unenforceable since the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional in 2013, but it remains on the books.
The Respect for Marriage Act also protects the rights of protects the rights of interracial couples, assures that states will recognize valid marriages from other states, and provides for legal action for discrimination based on a married couple's identity. The push for the act came after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas urged the overturning of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which made marriage equality the law of the land. The Respect for Marriage Act, which President Joe Biden has promised to sign into law, will maintain marriage equality even if the Supreme Court overturns the decision.