Assembly Passes Leno Bill Strengthening Religious Freedom
Thursday, August 19, 2010
SB 906 clarifies that no clergy member will be forced to perform any civil marriage that is against his or her belief system
SACRAMENTO – The California Assembly today passed legislation that clarifies the religious freedom of clergy members in California. The Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), reaffirms the separation of church and state and clarifies under state law that no member of clergy will be required to perform a civil marriage that is contrary to his or her faith. The Assembly approved Senate Bill 906 with a 46-25 vote. The bill will return to the Senate for a routine concurrence vote before going to the governor’s desk.
“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 tenets of any religious group or individual,” said Senator Leno. “With the recent federal court ruling, we know that marriage for same-sex couples in California is on the horizon. Under 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.”
In addition to strengthening religious freedom in state statute, SB 906 also clarifies the differences between civil and religious marriage in state law and protects churches from losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform any civil marriage. The bill is sponsored by Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT.
“Opponents of marriage equality have falsely claimed that allowing same-sex couples to marry will force clergy to violate the tenets of their faiths,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “This bill should alleviate any concerns that restoring marriage equality will require clergy to perform weddings inconsistent with 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 conscience or faith tradition as it is to protect the religious freedom of those who do support marriage equality to be able to solemnize all committed unions. California Council of Churches IMPACT represents faith traditions on both sides of this question and Senator Leno's bill perfectly codifies legal protection for all our faith communities,” he said.