Friday, February 5, 2010

Prop8 on trial: whose religious liberty?

Judge Walker of the Prop8 trial has allowed "friend of the court" (amicus) briefs to be filed by parties who want to weigh in on either side of the case.

A brief from an interfaith alliance of church groups has been filed that argues the religious freedom aspect:
Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry threatens religious liberty of Catholics no more than does allowing civilly divorced citizens to marry in contravention of Catholic doctrine.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry no more threatens the religious liberty of those who oppose such unions in their churches and synagogues than permitting interfaith marriage threatens religious liberty of synagogues and rabbis who interpret their scripture and tradition to prohibit such unions. No one can force clergy of any denomination to solemnize any wedding that conflicts with his or her faith tradition, and no church synagogue, or other place of worship loses its tax exempt status for refusing religious rites of marriage to citizens possessing a civil right to marry.

The real threat to religious liberty comes from enforcing as law religious doctrines of society’s most powerful sects, to outlaw marriages that others both recognize and sanctify.Clergy and congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Northern and Southern California Conferences of the United Church of Christ, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and others, proudly solemnized the legal marriages of same-sex couples – until Proposition 8 adopted other sects’ doctrine to outlaw those marriages.
Proposition 8 finds no rational basis in concern for anyone’s religious liberty. The Marriage Cases opinion itself had carefully specified that
affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.

Read more at Prop8TrialTracker.

Let's remember that despite the fact that no religious group can be required to perform a marriage of which they do not approve (think Catholics and divorce) this continues to be a canard that the equality opponents raise. CA State Senator Mark Leno has introduced The Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, SB 906.
Leno’s legislation is sponsored by the California Council of Churches, IMPACT a nd Equality California, which was the main group opposing Prop. 8.....

"We strong support religious freedom and the rights of clergy to only solemnize weddings they want to solemnize," [Geoff]Kors, [director of EQCA] says. The bill would not apply to government employees who perform weddings, who would have to treat gay and straight couples the same. It would also protect the rights of churches to reserve church facilities for their own members [as long as they don't rent them to the general public].
Equality CA urges Californians to write your state legislators in support. I agree!

This piece of legislation codifies in state law that no member of clergy is required to solemnize a civil marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith or that would infringe on his or her right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the California Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The bill also clarifies that civil marriage is a civil contract that requires a state-issued marriage license.

Both the California and U.S. Constitution currently protect religious freedom. However, until such protections are codified under law, there is ambiguity. It is necessary to strengthen these religious protections for clergy through state law to eliminate any uncertainty. The state cannot compel clergy to solemnize any civil marriage.
The anti-equality guys have claimed this is one of their big concerns. Even though they already have the protections, let's call them on it. Take this excuse away. Call or write your state senator and urge them to sponsor this bill. Keep a bright line between civil and religious unions.


Jonathan Holbert said...

I know that I’m likely just missing something here, but since same–gender couples can no longer marry in the California, the point of this law is?

IT said...

Building a basis for future action, I assume. Efforts to repeal Prop8 will require that such foundations be built.