Supporters of Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage, said they were concerned that churches would be forced to perform the ceremonies or face losing their nonprofit status.
So far, courts reviewing the measure which since was overturned in February have not latched on to that argument. Now, one of the Legislature’s most ardent same-sex marriage backers is trying to make it a moot point.
A bill making its way through the Legislature would protect churches’ nonprofit status if clergy members refuse to perform gay marriages. Senate Bill 1140 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, also states that marriage is a civil contract, not a religious one.
“Whether or not one believes that all Californians should have equal marriage rights or should be treated equally under the law, I think we can all agree that protecting religious freedom is important,” Leno said.
Supporters of his bill said it simply clarifies rights already protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
The Rev. Alan Jones of Sacramento’s St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, said the measure could “make it easier for people as a matter of conscience to be able to support gay or lesbian unions.”
“Some clergy feel that they don’t want to be pressured to do gay marriages, but they have no objections to gay marriage. They just don’t want to be the ones officiating,” Jones said.
Not all churches are on board.
The Rev. Rick Schlosser, executive director of the California Council of Churches, said some churches in his organization oppose the bill because of its implications.
“Their objective is they oppose marriage equality and are afraid this will take away one of their major arguments,” Schlosser said.
Religious groups have taken offense to the part of SB 1140 that says marriage is a civil contract, not a
This article originally appeared on: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/25/2866691/california-bill-would-sield-churches.html