California marriages go civil
August 20th, 2010
Yesterday the California state assembly approved SB 906, which will make the following changes to California’s marriage law:
MarriageCivil 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).
MarriageCivil 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.