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Proposed bill in California would reiterate protections for churches that do not support marriage equality

Community/Meta Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Although the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly protects churches and other houses of worship from engaging with public policy that goes against their beliefs, many opponents of marriage equality have made the argument that legalizing equal marriage for gay couples would force churches to go against their religious beliefs and perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples or face the loss of their nonprofit status.

But a bill making its way through the California legislature would affirm those protections, making it explicit that churches can retain their nonprofit status if they refuse to perform marriages for gay couples, and it has an unusual sponsor: openly gay Sen. Mark Leno, one of the state’s foremost champions of marriage equality.  “Whether or not one believes that all Californians should have equal marriage rights or should be treated equally under the law,” Leno said, “I think we can all agree that protecting religious freedom is important.  Leno’s bill also states that marriage is a civil contract, and not a religious one.

Intriguingly, Leno’s bill has its detractors in the religious community.  Bill May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, told the Sacramento Bee that the bill “creates confusion by introducing a new definition of marriage.”  But the Rev. Rick Schlosser, executive director of the California Council of Churches, told the paper that he sees opposition to the bill coming out of a fear of losing one of the major talking points against equal marriage: “[These churches’] objective is they oppose marriage equality and are afraid this will take away one of their major arguments.”

The nuances of the support and opposition to Leno’s California bill are mirrored in the battle over ballot language currently taking place in Maine.  Marriage equality advocates in the state proposed a ballot measure that included explicit affirmation of religious protections for institutions that oppose equal marriage rights; the Maine Secretary of State, who opposes marriage equality, took those provisions out of his proposed ballot language.

In an interesting twist, now that the advocates of equal marriage that arguing for inclusion of the language in the November ballot, opponents of marriage equality are opposing it.  It’s a remarkable reversal to see the very people who argue that religious institutions will be forced to act against their beliefs campaigning against a ballot measure in Maine and a California bill that would explicitly protect that right.


  • 1. Derek Williams  |  June 25, 2012 at 8:21 am

    oh what a tangled web they weave

  • 2. Eric  |  June 25, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Why did we ever remove this from the California Constitution:

    “No contract of marriage, if otherwise duly made, shall be invalidated by want of conformity to the requirements of any religious sect.” – Article XI, section 12 of the California Constitution of 1849.

  • 3. MightyAcorn  |  June 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I think it's still in the CA Family Code, somewhere in Sections 400-600….

  • 4. Sagesse  |  June 25, 2012 at 8:37 am


  • 5. AnonyGrl  |  June 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

    This is kind of fun!

  • 6. coolbanker  |  June 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

    The opponents of marriage equality are opposing it. Of course they are. How else can they use the argument to vote against marriage equality? Without this bill, they can argue that "We would be FORCED to perform same sex marriages if marriage equality is the law of the land."

  • 7. DaveP  |  June 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Awesome. In a sort of 'emperor-has-no-clothes' kind of way. We are calling their bluff and they are stammering.

  • 8. coolbanker  |  June 25, 2012 at 9:57 am


  • 9. Fred  |  June 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

    In case no one has noticed, the last ditch effort to oppose marriage equality is to present it as an attack on freedom of religion. They will present their attempts to discriminate in every aspect of daily life as religious expression. This will include individuals who are working in non-religious institutions. They will use so-called conscience clauses. And they will become more vitriolic as they continue to lose.

  • 10. Steven .k  |  June 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

    <img src=""/>As we always say, one step forward, two step backward. <img src=""/&gt;

  • 11. Guest  |  June 25, 2012 at 10:44 am


  • 12. fiona64  |  June 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Why, why, WHY do we continue to give credence to this *lie* by creating "carve outs" that specify what we already know to be true under the Constitution? Gah.

  • 13. AnonyGrl  |  June 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    By addressing it, we negate it. It is a pointless exercise obviously, except for the objections they raise to it.

    So if they manage to kill it, we can say "But we TRIED to give you those guarantees, you fought AGAINST them", and if it passes, we can say "You HAVE those guarantees." Either way, a win for us, albeit a dumb one.

  • 14. fiona64  |  June 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    IMO, by addressing it we say "Well, yes, it could happen … but we'll make sure it won't." It's stupid, and it's playing right into their Fear Factor Mentality. By addressing it at all, we make it "true," even though it's patently false.

  • 15. Eric  |  June 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    These people don't even read the bible, so we can hardly expect them to read the Constitution.

  • 16. Derek Williams  |  June 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

    The Holy Bible condones slavery, incest, infanticide, misogyny and genocide. Religionists can't have it both ways. It's obvious they aren't killing their children for disobedience*, what's more they allow women to teach and to speak in church** (forbidden in both Testaments), so it is entirely animus towards homosexuals, not belief in Scripture that motivates them. As for their paternalistic mantra, "Love sinner, hate the sin", it is impossible to hate what we are without de facto hating us into the bargain.

    If 'Religious Belief' is based on the Holy Bible, please take a moment to check out what else this venerated book commands:

    DEUTERONOMY 13:13-17 A town that allows the practice of more than one religion is burned to the ground and all its inhabitants and livestock slaughtered with swords.
    * DEUTERONOMY 21:18-21 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother… then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.
    DEUTERONOMY 22:13-21 A woman not a virgin on her wedding night must be executed
    DEUTERONOMY 22:22 If a married person has sex with someone else's husband or wife, both adulterers be stoned to death
    DEUTERONOMY 22:28-29 A virgin who is raped must marry her rapist.
    DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12 If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband by grabbing the enemy's genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her
    MARK 10:1-12 Divorce is strictly forbidden in both Testaments, as is remarriage of anyone who has been divorced
    MARK 12:18-27 If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir
    LEVITICUS 11:6-8 outlaws the playing of football (touching the skin of a dead pig)
    LEVITICUS 11:9-12 eating shellfish or pork strictly forbidden
    LEVITICUS 18:19 A married couple who have sexual intercourse during a woman's period shall both be executed.
    LEVITICUS 19:19 may not wear polyester cotton shirts (wearing garments of mixed fabrics forbidden)
    * LEVITICUS 20:9 anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
    LEVITICUS 26:14-30 "Then if you walk contrary to me …you shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters."
    NUMBERS 15:32,35 While the people of Israel found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, the Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses."
    ** TIMOTHY 2:12 "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence"
    PROVERBS 19:2 and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth (running and therefore all athletic sports are a sin)
    ** CORINTHIANS 14:34 Women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says.
    COLOSSIANS 3:22 "Slaves, obey your human masters in everything; don't work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord."

  • 17. AnonyGrl  |  June 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I have taken to responding, when hit with "I love the sinner but hate the sin" with "OK. I love the believer, but hate the belief."

    Sometimes it shuts them up. Sometimes, they continue arguing, and I have to follow everything they say with "I hate that." Eventually, they stop.

  • 18. LCH  |  June 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    That's a GREAT response. I'm totally stealing it.

  • 19. AnonyGrl  |  June 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Please do. I stole it from someone else. 🙂

  • 20. Chris in Lathrop  |  June 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Consider it doubly stolen! 🙂

  • 21. Derek Williams  |  June 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    that's brilliant – stealing also…

  • 22. Longestest lurker  |  June 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I like to respond, "love the bigot, hate the bigotry".

  • 23. Deeelaaach  |  June 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    And I'm stealing it too!

  • 24. Carpool Cookie  |  June 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    What would be funny would be if this were put up to a popular vote…and it LOST.

  • 25. AnonyGrl  |  June 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Oh so VERY funny!!!

  • 26. Carpool Cookie  |  June 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    They'd be like, "Ahhh….uhhhhhh…OH SH!T ! ! ! "

  • 27. Mike in Baltimore  |  June 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Maybe the bigots in the RCC should be asked if they are forced to marry two people who were previously divorced, or the church loses it's tax exemption. If they respond (doubtful), they should then be asked what legal document that specifically gives them the right to not marry divorcees; or people who don't make a promise to raise any resulting children, etc.

  • 28. SteveW  |  June 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Don't be so glib. As I noted before, this was a powerful, if false, argument used by the Prop 8 folks last time around.

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