Social conservatives are calling a
California bill that would strengthen religious freedoms a backdoor
bid to legalize gay marriage in the state.
Openly gay California Senator Mark
Leno's Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act has the support of gay
groups, including Equality California, the state's largest gay rights
The bill would protect clergy from
performing any civil marriage that is contrary to their faith.
“We are confident that same-sex
couples will one day have the right to marry in California, and when
that time comes this law will reassure faith leaders who have opposed
marriage equality due to fears they would be compelled to perform
marriages conflicting with their beliefs that state law, in fact,
safeguards their religious freedoms,” Geoff Kors, executive
director of Equality California, said.
“Although the U.S. and California
Constitution protect freedom of religion, codifying these principles
in state law will diminish any lingering ambiguity and will
strengthen these vital freedoms,” he added.
Social conservatives, however, are
opposed to the definitions used in the bill, including the
distinction between civil and religious marriages.
“The concern is over the specific
changing of the California statute to create a new class of civil
marriage,” Everett Rice, legislative coordinator for the California
Family Policy Council, a group that opposes gay rights, told the
Christian-based Baptist Press.
“We are concerned that that's going
to become another avenue of actually changing the definition of
marriage itself. That's been pretty much the focus of Senator Leno's
and those who support homosexual marriage. Our concern is that the
bill incrementally begins the process of doing that. What we've seen
in the past is that measures like these incrementally try to change
The Alliance Defense Fund – a
Christian-based legal group opposed to gay rights – called the bill
a “Trojan horse.”
“Leno's bill is a Trojan horse that
does nothing to protect religious institutions or other agencies of
the church from being forced to violate their religious beliefs,”
Mike Johnson, an ADF attorney, told the paper. “In fact, it
further restricts church liberty and independence by giving the
government greater power to define the church and its mission.”
The bill defines a civil marriage as a
contract that requires a state-issued marriage license.