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Marriage bill: religious freedom or ‘Trojan horse?’

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 10:39 am in Assembly, California State Senate, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage.

My article in yesterday’s editions reported upon a Presbyterian minister who’s been put on trial this week by her church for having solemnized same-sex marriages during the five months in 2008 when it was legal in California to do so, but still forbidden by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution.

Meanwhile, a pending bill would ensure that clergy members whose faiths oppose same-sex marriage are never forced into solemnizing such relationships, no matter what state law says about civil marriage. But SB 906 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, faces some opposition from some sections of the religious community.

William May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good, last month called the bill “a Trojan horse sponsored by the opponents of Prop 8. It is another slap at the 7 million voters who passed it.”

“The sponsor, Equality California, is trying to manufacture on their own a ‘civil’ class of marriage that is independent of marriage as a reality of nature,” he wrote. “It is clear this bill will be used to fool the voters into thinking there is a difference between religious and civil marriage and that same-sex ‘marriage’ will have no impact on churches and people of faith.”

The California Family Council opposes SB 906 for the same reason, as does Concerned Women for America of California.

I understand what they’re saying about Proposition 8’s ban on marriage being the will of the electorate, but there is an effective difference between religious marriage and civil marriage: If you don’t get a civil marriage certificate, your marriage isn’t recognized in California, and you don’t need a clergy member to sign that certificate. Read a deconstruction of May’s arguments here.

Said Leno, back in May: “This bill simply affirms that California is a diverse state and that we can all co-exist and make space for each others’ beliefs without compromising the beliefs of any religious group or individual. With the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, churches and clergy members who fear their religious views are threatened by marriage equality will have clear and solid protections under state law. In addition, churches that welcome same-sex couples will continue to fully recognize those families within their faith.”

The Assembly approved SB 906 last Thursday on a 51-26 vote; Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, joined with Democrats to support it. It now goes back to the state Senate – which approved it 23-11 in May – briefly for concurrence with a technical change, and then it’s headed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

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  • Elwood

    I want to marry my beautiful cat, Kitty!

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Will you invite my cat to be best man?

  • sam kennedy

    Chelene Nightingale for governor, is a hypocrite, depending whom she speaks with, she is either a “born again Christian” against gay marriage…or she is radical lunatic Chelene (google chelene nightingale minutemen) for more on that, and she says Government should not interfere with anyone that wants to marry anyone. She is a hack. Bankrupt unemployed begs for donations like Jim Baker…NO THANKS!!

  • John W

    Re: #1

    If you can get your cat to say, “I do” in either English or Spanish, we might be able to arrange it.

  • Elwood

    Re: #2

    No, but he can be best cat!

  • charlie pratt

    What the logic of conservative religion proponents ignores is that prop 8 infringes on the right of pastors in progressive denominations to perform the same-sex marriages that are theologically supported. Don’t the tenets of non-interference with religion also apply for example to the UCC or Episcopal churches? The conservatives advocate for their own narrow views not religion in general.