SB 906, A Back Door to Same-sex Marriage in California?
by Karen Grube in San Diego, California
There’s a very interesting bill that was just passed by the California State Senate, one that could open the door for gay marriage in California, if it is finally passed into law. This is despite the fact that the voters passed Prop 8 to amend the State Constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
The bill is SB (Senate Bill) 906, and it is likely to be voted on this coming week in the State Assembly. The text of the bill can be read by going here.
Authored by openly-gay State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, the bill would amend California law to define what the bill calls “Civil Marriage.” In the bill as amended, this is still between one man and one woman, and supposedly protects clergy of any church or religious organization from having their tax-exempt status jeopardized if they refuse to solemnize an otherwise legal marriage that is contrary to the tenets of their faith.
But wait a minute. . . why would a priest, rabbi, or pastor ever find that solemnizing any marriage between a man and a woman would be against his or her faith? I suppose that might be true if the man and woman were of different faiths, for example, but generally that’s not the issue that comes up. Still, what’s wrong with putting into law such protections for the clergy who conduct marriages? Why would anyone object to that?
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. Well, that sounds nice, but what about the county clerk who refuses to conduct gay marriages because of his faith, or a retired judge? And what about photographers or caterers who’s religious convictions will not allow them to provide services at a same-sex wedding? Not one of these concerns is addressed in this law. Besides, legally authorized representatives of religious organizations can already refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for ANY couple if they object on religious grounds with no consequences, so the bill is also redundant.
The bill modifies several sections of California law and would change the word ‘marriage’ to the phrase ‘civil marriage.’ But a wedding is already a civil ceremony! Again, why would they want to modify these portions of the civil code? Well, the idea is to pave the way for two different kinds of legally recognized marriages: religious marriage and civil marriage. Then, once these are both enshrined into law, same-sex marriage could easily defined as ‘civil marriage’ and be just as legal with all of the same rights as traditional marriage and there would be no legal difference between traditional marriage and civil marriage, especially if gay marriage were passed in 2012, which they believe will be more likely if this bill passes. And once that happens, no business, county clerk, fertility clinic, etc. that wanted to opt out of providing services to gay ‘married’ couples based on their religious convictions, would be able to say ‘No’ and teachers, even those with strong objections, would have to teach that gay marriage is just the same as traditional marriage because it is the law. In other words, all of the concerns voters had that led them to pass Prop 8 would come true.
But why the objection to ‘civil marriage?’ Again, to a large extent, this phrase has already become ‘code’ for same-sex marriage. And same-sex marriage, by definition, will never be what has been recognized millennia after millennia as real marriage, the union of one man and one woman and the family they create with the children they raise and nurture. What we’re talking about here is the legislature intentionally changing the law to cater to the wants of same sex couples and along the way, intentionally depriving children of even the possibility of being raised by their own real biological mom and dad. What’s even worse is that this would set a precedent for opening the same back door in the other states where the people have defined marriage in their State Constitution as being between one man and one woman.
Over the past weeks, SB 906 was amended during the Senate review process before it was passed, so now it goes to the State Assembly for a vote. Then, if it passes there, it goes to Governor Schwarzenegger to sign into law. The hope is that the members of the Assembly have been listening to the overwhelming objections to this bill from organizations like SaveCalifornia.com and CaliforniaFamilyCouncil.com as well as those from individuals who have been calling, emailing, and faxing, not only their own State Senator and State Assemblymember but every member of the State Senate and Assembly, asking them to reject this blatant attempt to circumvent the clear intent of the voters in passing Prop 8. People are sick and tired of their elected representatives misrepresenting them on issues like this and refusing to listen! Hopefully, the events of the past few weeks in the primary elections in several states will make it abundantly clear that disrespecting the clearly stated wishes of the voters puts one’s career as an elected official in jeopardy.