Sunday, August 22, 2010

Religious freedom in CA: SB 906 restates the obvious

Following up on Ann's post, below: The first amendment protects religious speech. And any clergy person may legally refuse to marry any couple, for any reason. These are simple facts.

Despite this, however, the Prop8 campaign and the liars of the anti-equality movement have inflamed fears that they will be forced to marry gays, or that they will have to stop preaching against gays. This has allowed them to frame the argument as an issue of religious freedom: as though denying OTHERS' religious freedom somehow benefits them.

In a recent poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute, specifically about Prop 8, the pollsters found that support for marriage equality in the Golden State is around 51%. If, however, civil unions are an option, 42% support marriage, with another 31% for unions.

However, support for marriage increases with specific reassurances:
A significant number of Californians who initially say they support civil unions but not same- sex marriage are willing to support marriage equality if the law addresses either of two basic concerns about religious marriages. When presented with an assurance that the law would guarantee that “no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples,” nearly one-third of Californians who initially only supported civil unions are willing to support marriage equality. With this religious liberty reassurance, support for same-sex marriage increases 12 points, from initial support of 42% to a solid majority at 54%. Similarly, when Californians are presented with an assurance that the law “only provided for civil marriages like you get at city hall,” more than half of Californians who initially supported only civil unions are willing to support marriage equality. This civil marriage reassurance results in a 19-point increase in support for same-sex marriage, from 42% to more than 6-in-10.

To make this freedom explicit, CA State Sen Mark Leno introduced Senate Bill 906, which has now passed the Assembly. THis bill
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.”
Of course, the right wing opposes this bill, with lunatic arguments like this one from a Roman Catholic opponent of SSM:
"SB 906 seeks to cause confusion by creating a new 'civil' class of marriage, implying it is different from religious marriage.
Of course, there has always been a separate civil marriage, given that couples can be married by the county clerk with no religious expression at all.
" It also creates the illusion of new protections for 'religious' marriage by essentially saying that religions can't be forced to change their doctrine on marriage (which is already prohibited by the 1st Amendment).
Yup, it does simply restate the 1st Amendment. It does this because the opponents to SSM apparently don't understand what religious freedom really means.
"It is clear this bill will be used to fool the voters into thinking that same-sex 'marriage' will have no impact on churches and people of faith."
Umm, is that because it WON'T have any impact--except on those churches who WANT to marry same sex couples.

They are panicked out of their mind to lose this favored talking point and spinning their wheels violently. Because if protections are explicitly stated, support for equality goes up.

Of course, none of this should be necessary. But the right wing has MADE it necessary, since they try to use this non-issue as a wedge.


JCF said...

creating a new 'civil' class of marriage, implying it is different from religious marriage.

And the RCC is one of the religious traditions MOST adamant that there IS a difference between civil and religious marriage!


Reed Boyer said...

Great article. Brilliant blog. Keep up the good work.