Equality California
California Passes Legislation Strengthening Religious Freedoms

August 19, 2010

Equality California-sponsored bill affirms that no clergy member will be forced to perform any civil marriage that is against his or her belief system

SACRAMENTO -- The California Assembly today passed the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act (SB 906) in a 46-25 vote. The bill, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT, protects clergy from performing any civil marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. The bill also protects religious institutions from losing their tax-exempt status for refusing to perform any civil marriage, and deepens the distinction in state law between religious and civil marriage by defining the latter as a civil contract that requires a state-issued marriage license.

“Opponents of marriage equality have falsely claimed that allowing same-sex couples to marry will force clergy to violate the tenets of their faiths,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “This bill should alleviate any concerns that restoring marriage equality will require clergy to perform weddings inconsistent with their faith.”

“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.”

SB 906 now returns to the Senate floor for a concurrence vote before heading to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

To find out more information about EQCA's legislation, visit www.eqca.org/legislation.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed over 60 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org