SACRAMENTO – Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation that clarifies the religious freedom of clergy members in California. The bill reaffirms the separation of church and state and codifies in California law that no member of clergy will be required to solemnize a civil marriage that is contrary to his or her faith.
The legislation also reaffirms that churches will not lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to solemnize civil marriages that do not align with their religious beliefs.
“Some opponents of marriage for same-sex couples have argued that churches and members of clergy would be required to solemnize marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs,” said Senator Leno.
“While we know religious freedom is protected under our Constitution, this legislation eliminates any confusion or doubt under state law, reaffirming that no member of clergy or church will be penalized for refusing to solemnize marriages that violate their religious tenets,” he said.
“In the spirit of personal liberty and respect, this bill takes away any ambiguity about religious freedom when it comes to marriage for same-sex couples.”
SB 906, the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, reaffirms the freedom members of clergy have to make faith-based decisions regarding which marriages they solemnize.
It reaffirms the principles of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with respect to California’s marriage laws. Senator Leno’s bill is sponsored by Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT.
“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,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California.
“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.”
“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.
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