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California marriages go civil

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2010

Yesterday the California state assembly approved SB 906, which will make the following changes to California’s marriage law:

300. (a) Marriage Civil marriage is 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. Consent alone does not constitute civil marriage. Consent must be followed by the issuance of a license and solemnization as authorized by this division, except as provided by Section 425 and Part 4 (commencing with Section 500).


400. Marriage Civil marriage may be solemnized by any of the following who is of the age of 18 years or older:
(a) A priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination. No person authorized by this subdivision, or his or her religious denomination, shall be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his, her, or its faith. Any refusal to solemnize a marriage under this subdivision shall not affect the tax exempt status of any entity.

The bill goes on to revise the rest of the law by replacing reference to “marriage” with “civil marriage.”

Officially this bill does nothing, but the symbolism is interesting. It says that the State of California isn’t interested in how your church defines marriage, only in the civil aspect. Further, it assures churches and clergy that they need not conduct any marriages that they don’t find appropriate to their faith, even though such assurances are unnecessary due to the US Constitution’s religious protections.

And the wing-nuts are furious.

You’d think that ensuring and emphasizing protection for clergy would be welcomed. But wing-nuts don’t want such protection; it distracts from their deceptive talking points. They want to be able to scare people into thinking that their church will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages and have discovered that most voters don’t really understand that the First Amendment already protects them. This revision would make it harder to lie.

As the Ruth Institute, the National Organization for Marriage’s college outreach, laments

The real intent behind this bill is to make it appear as though it eliminates one of the main objections to same-sex marriage, that it jeopardizes religious freedom, in what gay activists hope will be an effort to get gay marriage on the ballot in California in 2012. They think that doing this will make gay marriage seem more acceptable to the voters of California and make it easier for such an amendment to pass. The idea is that if this bill passes, they can claim that allowing same-sex marriage won’t have any affect on religious freedom.

And anything that makes it more difficult for NOM and their allies to deceive voters is a threat to their power. Going into a potential 2012 constitutional amendment to reverse Proposition 8 (assuming that this isn’t all resolved through Perry v. Schwarzenegger by then), they didn’t want to have to defend “civil marriage” or lose one of their biggest scare points.

The bill passed with support of virtually all Democrats along with two Republicans. It had previously passed the State Senate but will return for a concurrence vote before going to the governor for signature.



August 20th, 2010 | LINK

wow… I think this is actually a big deal for the future of marriage equality in CA. I hope other states follow suit.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t know who belongs to which party, but here’s the list of votes:

Lindoro Almaviva
August 20th, 2010 | LINK

This whole bulls1t could have been axerted if the government had done its job and kept religious institutions from performing civl marriages like the rest of the world does. Instead, now we have a whole generation of people (already sick with feelings of self- entlitement) to grow up confused about what marriage is. .

If people had to go to the justice of peace to solemnize their marriage before their pastor is allowed to officiate a church ceremony, we would not have the stupid comments that this lowlife Galagher spews with impunity; and if she did, people would be better informed.

I still do not know why someone has not challenged this in court.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

Is the Governator inclined to sign this?

I’ve been trying to find an answer to that question, perhaps been looking in all the wrong places.

Wow, things is movin’ FAST.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

On the face of it, “civil marriage” looks to be defined as between a man and a woman. I don’t see where we are all thrilled by this.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

This topic came up on a popular gay blog today, and I was quite surprised at all the negative comments it received (the posting about this bill had nearly 100 comments all told). There were a lot of complaints about the legislation, saying that it “pandered to the right” and the like.

But man, this can only be a good thing. Let’s face the facts: the majority of the population is woefully uninformed about the differences between a marriage recognised by the state, and marriage as performed by the clergy. One of the KEY POINTS made by the anti-gay groups, again and again, is that marriage equality will infringe on religious rights—that if gay marriage is permitted, churches will be FORCED to perform them.

This is an outright lie, but of course we know that lies are bread and butter to the foes of equal rights. The constitution GUARANTEES that churches are never obliged to marry people they don’t wish to—but a lot of people don’t seem to understand that, and readily fall for the lies of NOM and the like.

Is this bill unnecessary? Is it a waste of time and money, to reiterate something that is already in the constitution? Absolutely, no question. But if putting this out there in plain language reassures people that their church will not have to host gay weddings, why not do it? It can only have a positive effect on the acceptance of marriage equality on the civil front.

August 20th, 2010 | LINK

It’s calling their bluff so they look even more like the ridiculous bigots they are.

August 21st, 2010 | LINK

Larz wrote: “On the face of it, “civil marriage” looks to be defined as between a man and a woman. I don’t see where we are all thrilled by this.”

I’d imagine that’s because the amendment of the California Constitution which Prop 8 inserted is still in effect. There’s really no other option, for the time being, anyway…

August 21st, 2010 | LINK

This bill does not entirely clean up the messy mix of church and state in defining marriage. No law in a secular government should refer to “A priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination.”
It would be better to remove all mention of religious marriage, or even all mention of marriage and have the law only use civil unions, or let a a marriage be officiated simply by having witnesses.

August 21st, 2010 | LINK

A repeal vote absolutely must go forward for 2012. We will not see the Perry case hit SCOTUS earlier than 2014, and there’s so assurance they will uphold Walker’s ruling. The current high court has 4 guaranteed votes again marriage equality.

In any case, This proposed change in State law is a silly distraction.

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