Calif. marriage bill called 'Trojan horse' for redefinition effort
By Benjamin Mann
William B. May, Catholics for the Common Good.
William B. May, Catholics for the Common Good.

.- Homosexual advocacy groups have lent their support to a supposed “religious freedom” bill, criticized by Catholics in California as a deceptive effort to redefine the meaning of marriage.

“We call it a 'Trojan horse.' It appears to be a gift, but really it's undermining marriage,” Catholics for the Common Good President William B. May told CNA on May 1, as he prepared to testify against Senate Bill 1140 in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

On Monday afternoon, the committee approved the bill by a 4-1 vote, making it likely to go before the full Senate for a vote in the near future.

Introduced by Democratic State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, the bill is being promoted as “legislation that clarifies the religious freedom of clergy members in California,” by stating that “no member of clergy will be required to perform a marriage that is contrary to his or her faith.”

SB 1140 would also define marriage, in California's Family Code, as “a personal relation arising out of a civil, and not a religious, contract.”

The proposal is supported by groups that support redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, including Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT.

In an April 27 statement released by Catholics for the Common Good, May said the bill was “a deception,” using the language of religious freedom in an effort “to redefine marriage … and eventually remove from the law any public institution that unites kids with their moms and dads.”

The Catholic activist said the bill's religious protections are unnecessary and already exist under the U.S. Constitution. The state, he said, already has “no authority to tell religions who is qualified or not for marriage according to their faith.”

“Rather,” May said, “the true intent of the bill is to spread further confusion about what marriage is by differentiating between different types – civil and religious.”

He said the proposed legislation sought to “frame the definition of marriage as merely a religious issue,” and thereby “lay the ground work for redefining marriage” in state law.

“At a time when marriage is in crisis,” he said in his April 27 statement, “when 41 percent of children are born outside of marriage, when 44 percent of young adults believe that marriage is obsolete, we need to be promoting the positive reality of marriage, not redefining it out of existence.”

Catholics for the Common Good is known for defending authentic marriage from a non-religious standpoint, as the institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and their children.

The group's “Stand With Children” campaign argues for the public purpose of marriage as the foundation of family integrity. This family-oriented definition of marriage contrasts with the more reductive notion of a mere contract between two adults, which fundamentally differs from marriage.

May also argues that the civil and religious aspects of marriage are not separate realities – as they would be defined under SB 1140 – but complementary aspects of the same institution.

“Marriage that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union is the same reality that has been recognized by every society, culture and religion,” he explained on Friday. “The state and religions recognized that reality differently according to their different competencies.”

“The state recognizes it because there is a distinct public interest that coincides with the right of a child to be born into a united family. In addition, the Catholic Church recognizes it as a sacrament.”

In his remarks to CNA before Monday's hearing, May also criticized the concept of religious freedom put forth by proponents of SB 1140.

The bill “creates a perception that churches are insulated from the consequences of redefining marriage – which is not true,” he said.

While clergy would not be forced to perform homosexual ceremonies, May warned that religious institutions and individuals would have no protection from more likely threats – like being forced to rent facilities for these ceremonies, or offer services like wedding photography and catering.

The protection of clergy, May said on Monday, is “in there to use in a campaign slogan down the road – (to say) that the law 'protects churches.'” In this way, the bill “creates a false perception that can be used politically, to mislead the voters on the consequences of redefining marriage.”

In a press release promoting his introduction of SB 1140, Senator Mark Leno predicted the judicial overturning of the traditional-marriage law known as Proposition 8, saying it was “only a matter of time before same-sex couples in California will again have the freedom to marry.”

But if this occurs, May warned, children will lose out – bearing the consequences of a political move that shortchanges their rights in favor of adults' personal desires.

“What is happening,” he explained, “is a redefinition of what marriage is, turning it into nothing more than the public recognition of a committed relationship between adults. It removes from the law any connection between marriage, children, mothers, and fathers.”

“Marriage is the only institution that unites kids with their moms and dads,” May observed. “If marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, there will be no institution in the law that does that.”

Updated on May 2, 2012 at 11:34 MST. Adds information on the outcome of the Senate committee vote in paragraph three.

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