Equality California
California Assembly Passes Bill to Protect Religious Freedom in Marriage
August 28, 2012

CONTACT: Steve Roth, OutThink Partners
PHONE: 323-951-0059 EMAIL: steve@outthinkpartners.com

California Assembly Passes Bill to Protect Religious Freedom in Marriage

(San Francisco) The California State Assembly voted today to approve SB 1140 (Leno) by a vote of 41-23. The bill, sponsored by Equality California, reaffirms the freedom of clergy to make faith-based decisions regarding which marriages they solemnize, and clarifies that those decisions have no bearing on tax-exempt status. The bill will proceed to Governor Jerry Brown's desk after a routine vote in the Senate to concur in amendments made in the Assembly.

"Some opponents of equal marriage rights for all couples have attempted to create a shadow of ambiguity to cast a pall over the freedom to marry," said Clarissa Fligioun, Equality California board president. "We thank Senator Leno for helping to make clear that these false claims made by anti-equality advocates are just that—false—and for clarifying that allowing loving same-sex couples to marry will never require clergy or places of worship to compromise their religious beliefs."

“In the debate surrounding Proposition 8, some members of clergy expressed concerns that their freedom of religion could be infringed upon if they were forced to recognize marriages contrary to their religious faith,” said SB 1140 author Senator Mark Leno. “While we do not believe that to be true, this legislation makes it absolutely clear under state law that churches and clergy members have solid protections when it comes to marriage for same-sex couples. With momentum building in support of marriage for same-sex couples, we know it is only a matter of time before California will again have the freedom to marry, making this clarification especially necessary,” he said.

Existing federal and state law supports the freedom of religion as guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution. However, until those protections are codified under law, opponents of the freedom to marry may be able to claim that the statutory ambiguity is a reason to oppose full marriage recognition for all Californians. SB 1140 explicitly codifies the protections inherent in the constitutions in order to reassure those who would otherwise support the freedom to marry.

To learn more about Equality California-sponsored legislation, visit www.eqca.org/legislation.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to a state with some of the most comprehensive human rights protections in the nation. Equality California has partnered with legislators to successfully sponsor more than 85 pieces of pro-equality legislation. EQCA continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org