San Francisco Chronicle Monday Februrary 1, 2010 Bay Area Section http://www.sfgatecom. Same-Sex Marriage By Wyatt Buchanan Chronicle Sacramento Bureau Sacramento - Clergy members and churches would not face legal consequences for refusing to perform same-sex marriages, under a state bill being pushed by supporters of gay marrige. Same-Sex marriage is illegal in California, but that could change with a court decision or at the ballot box. Supporters of same-sex marriage want to alleviate concerns of those with religious objections. They also want to emphasize the seperation between civil and religious recognition of marriage. "We heard through the Prop. 8 debate great concern from certain clergy that their freedom of religion could be infringed upon and their tax-exempt status revoked," said the bills author, State Senator Mark Leno, (D-SF). "We want to clarify that by putting the constitutional guarantee of the First Amendment, freedom of religon, into the statute." The bill would apply to any religious objection to performing a marriage, not just between same-sex couples and states that no clergy member would be required to soleminze a marriage the conflicts with his or her faith. The bill states that refusing to do so "shall not affect the stax-exempt status of any entity." The threat of churches losing their tax-exempt status for refusing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies was prominent in the campaign in of Prop. 8, the measure that reinstated the ban on those marriages in California. Backers of the legislation, including state's largest gay rights organization, said the bill also will clarify differences betwen civil and religious marriage. Teh proposal would place the word, "civil" in front of references to marriage. "There is confusion among many people whether a marriage licence is a civil document or a religious document. It's a civil document, and this is putting that in the code so there is no confusion," said Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California. Several religious organiztions support the measure, including the California Southern Baptist Convention, which supported Prop. 8. Terry Barone, a spokesman for the convention, called it "good legislation." "That certainly would seem to add protections for a clergy member who, for whatever reason, might be hesitant to perform a marriage ceremony," he said. The proposal also has the backing of California Church Impact, the advocacy arm of the California Council of Churches, which represents about 6,000 congregations and 6.5 million Californians according to the organization. That group opposed Prop. 8, even though its members were divided on the issue. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of the advocacy group, call the proposal a "perfect bill" because of its recognition of religious freedom. He acknowledged however, that religious freedom includes the freedom to trat and lesbian couples differently from heterosexuals. "We very strongly oppose discrimination in any form anywhere, so that is an issue and concern for me. However, because some churches would refuse to perform sam-sex marriages dosen't deny a couple the right of getting married." Schlosser said. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the interest of full, open and honest disclosure I will now inform members of this forum that I have in the past work as an un-paid volunteer for Senator Mark Leno. I worked on his last State Senate Campaign and on his final (due to term limits) campaign for State Assembly. I have attended and I have hosted Campaign Fund Raising Parties for Senator Mark Leno.