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Protecting Religious Groups From Same-Sex Marriage In California

One of the things about providing dialogue and actually working with people to pass legislation that they may disagree with is that they can, and ultimately do, manage to get carve outs and protections for themselves. Many of these groups and religions often end up holding the bag when they refuse to negotiate and end up with little to no protections.

California State Senator Mark Leno, though, has crafted a bill that would protect clergy and religious groups across the state from being forced to participate in same-sex marriages.

Here is the press release:

Senator Mark Leno introduced legislation today that clarifies the religious freedom of clergy members in California. Senate Bill 1140 reaffirms the separation of church and state and clarifies under state law that no member of clergy will be required to perform a marriage that is contrary to his or her faith. SB 1140 also protects churches from losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform a marriage that is contrary to their faith. The bill is sponsored by Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT.

“With the recent appellate court decision on Proposition 8, we know that it is only a matter of time before same-sex couples in California will again have the freedom to marry,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Under SB 1140, churches and clergy members who fear their religious views are threatened by allowing marriage for same-sex couples will have clear and solid protections under state law. Similarly, churches that welcome same-sex couples will be able to fully recognize those families within their faith.”

“Equality California is committed to eliminating every possible barrier to securing the freedom to marry, including the false claim made by anti-equality advocates in California and elsewhere that allowing loving same-sex couples to marry will force clergy or places of worship to compromise their religious beliefs,” said Equality California Board President Clarissa Filgioun. “This bill makes our intention and the law clear—all committed couples ought to have the freedom to marry and all clergy ought to be able to operate freely according to the tenets of their faith.”

“Senator Leno’s bill is essential to protecting our freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of California Council of Churches IMPACT. “It is as imperative that we protect the religious freedom to not solemnize marriages between same-sex couples for clergy and congregations who oppose it on the basis of their faith tradition as it is to protect the religious freedom of those who do support marriage equality. California Council of Churches IMPACT represents faith traditions on both sides of this question and this bill perfectly codifies legal protection for all our faith communities,” he said.

Many states that allow marriage for same-sex couples have also passed similar laws clarifying that religious denominations and individual clergy members are free to determine which marriages they perform.

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