February 3, 2010
California Marriage Bill: Civil Marriage and Religious Protection
The legal definition of "marriage" is at the core of the Proposition 8 trial in California federal court: A new Bill introduced in the California Senate, SB 906, would alter that definition and clarify some of the constitutional issues surrounding solemnization of marriage by clergy. The Bill does not specifically pertain to same-sex marriage, but does have - - - and is most likely intended to have - - - implications for the constitutional arguments surrounding same-sex marriage and religious free exercise.
The summary of the Bill states:
Existing law defines marriage as a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. This bill would instead define the term civil marriage as a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, established pursuant to a State of California marriage license issued by
the county clerk, to which the consent of the parties capable of making
that contract is necessary. The bill would also make conforming related
changes by changing certain references to marriage to civil marriage.
Existing law enumerates persons who are authorized to solemnize a
marriage, including, but not limited to, any priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination. The bill would specify that no priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination would be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. The bill would state that any refusal to solemnize a marriage under that provision shall not affect the tax exempt status of any entity.
Thus, the Bill enacts a conscience clause for religious solemnizers of civil marriages. No similar conscience clause exemption exists in the Bill for public officials.
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