California Marriage Decision Respects Boundaries Between Religion And Government, Says Americans United

Religious Groups Remain Free To Make Decisions About Marriage In Keeping With Their Theology, Says AU's Lynn

The California Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage respects the boundaries between religion and government, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State

In a May 15 decision, the court majority held that the state constitution mandates that same-sex couples have the same right to the benefits of civil marriage as opposite-sex couples.

The justices made clear, however, that the ruling applies only to civil marriages. Religious communities remain free to marry same-sex couples or not, in keeping with their theology.

Said the court, “[A]ffording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

The court cited Article I, Section 4 of the state constitution, which says in part, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed” and “The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said, “This decision is an important victory for church-state separation. The court majority made it very clear that civil marriage is a secular institution governed by principles of freedom.”

“The court also made it clear that no congregation can be forced to marry people in violation of their theological standards,” Lynn continued. “That’s a strong reaffirmation of religious liberty.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.