Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A new law regarding gay marriage is pending in California

There is some interesting news in the San Francisco Chronicle.  Here's a summary and an opinion.

A bill is being pushed that would exempt clergy and churches from any legal consequences for denying same-sex marriages to gay couples.  What's interesting is that the major supporters of the  bill are supporters of same-sex marriage.

Politically and (in my opinion) constitutionally it makes sense.  Once a law like this is on the books, it makes it more difficult for anti-equality folks to claim that churches that reject same-sex marriage will be required to perform them.  (Are you listening, Maine?)  It also makes constitutional sense by supporting the notion of the separation of church and state.  The government shouldn't be allowed to tell religious groups what to believe.

Said the bill's author, state senator Mark Leno D-San Francisco (left), "We heard through the Prop. 8 debate great concern from certain clergy that their freedom of religion could be infringed upon and their tax-exempt status revoked. We want to clarify that by putting the constitutional guarantee of the First Amendment, freedom of religion, into statute."

Another benefit from the bill would be that it would highlight the difference between civil and religious marriage by putting the word "civil" in front of references to marriage.  Said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California (right). "There is confusion among many people whether a marriage license is a civil document or a religious document. It's a civil document, and this is putting that in the code so there is no confusion."

Although some religious groups that supported the ban of marriage though Proposition 8, I do wonder if the leaders of these groups would be ready to support same-sex civil marriage.  Said Prop 8 supporter Terry Barone (left), "That certainly would seem to add protections for a clergy member who, for whatever reason, might be hesitant to perform a marriage ceremony." 

What I find fascinating about the bill is that people are talking about gay marriage -- which is not allowed in California because of Prop 8 -- as if it were inevitable.  Why else would people support a move that protected clergy from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies in a state where same sex marriage was unconstitutional?

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