The California Assembly is preparing to
debate a bill which would reaffirm religious freedom in marriage.
Openly gay state Senator Mark Leno
introduced the measure in February and it cleared the Senate with a
23-11 vote in May.
Senate Bill 1140 clarifies that under
state law no member of clergy will be required to perform a marriage
that is contrary to his or her faith. The bill would also protect
churches from losing their tax-exempt status if they refused to
perform a marriage that is contrary to their faith.
Leno said the bill was needed to assure
religious leaders that legalizing gay marriage would not violate
their freedom of religion.
“In the debate surrounding
Proposition 8, some members of clergy expressed concerns that their
freedom of religion could be infringed upon if they were forced to
recognize marriages contrary to their religious faith,” Leno said
in a statement. “While we do not believe that to be true, this
legislation makes it absolutely clear under state law that churches
and clergy members have solid protections when it comes to marriage
for same-sex couples. With momentum building in support of marriage
for same-sex couples, we know it is only a matter of time before
California will again have the freedom to marry, making this
clarification especially necessary.”
Speaking to The
Bee, the Rev. Rick Schlosser, executive director of the
California Council of Churches, said some churches in his
organization oppose the bill because they are “afraid this will
take away one of their major arguments.”
Others said they were offended that the
measure says marriage is a civil contract, not a religious one.
Bill May, president of Catholics for
the Common Good, said the bill “creates confusion by introducing a
new definition of marriage.”
“The real threat to churches is
same-sex couples renting facilities when a church is trying to teach
its congregation that marriage is between a man and a woman,” May