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Bill to Protect Religious Institutions From Performing Same-Sex Weddings Passes Assembly

Mark_LenoFlying in the face of the conservative right’s  anti-same-sex marriage argument is proof that the proponents of same-sex marriage are delighted to legislate “security” for those who purport to fear that same-sex marriage could impact their right to practice their religious beliefs in freedom.  Today in Sacramento legislation that protects the religious freedom of clergy members in California has passed the Assembly.

Senate Bill 1140, authored by Senator Mark Leno, 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.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental value that is protected by both the U.S. and California constitution,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “However, in the debate surrounding Proposition 8, which denied same-sex couples the right to marry, some members of clergy expressed concerns that their religious freedom could be infringed upon if they were forced to recognize marriages contrary to their faith. While we never believed this to be true, this legislation makes it perfectly clear that churches and clergy members have solid protections under state law.”

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

SB 1140 is sponsored by Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT.

“Some opponents of equal marriage rights for all couples have attempted to create a shadow of ambiguity to cast a pall over the freedom to marry,” said Clarissa Fligioun, Equality California board president. “We thank Senator Leno for helping to make clear that these false claims made by anti-equality advocates are just that—false—and for clarifying that allowing loving same-sex couples to marry will never require clergy or places of worship to compromise their religious beliefs.”

“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.

Senator Leno’s religious freedom bill passed the Assembly with a 41-23 initial vote. It returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote before heading to the Governor’s desk.

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