National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island states flatly that “No religious protections are good enough” in Rhode Island’s proposed marriage equality law. “There are no religious exemptions that would make same-sex marriage legislation safe enough from those who would seek to interpret the law”.
It’s hard to take these statements seriously knowing that Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who opposed Washington state’s marriage equality law, has since used that law’s new religious freedom provisions to assure his clergy that they may legally follow cannon law and refuse to marry same-sex couples or provide any wedding-related services to them. In fact, Archbishop Sartain directly quoted sections of Washington’s updated marriage law in his policy refresher for the archdiocese (right).
Archbishop Sartain is secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the political arm of the Church in the USA, and was chosen last year by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to “reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious”. In other words, Archbishop Sartain is highly respected by his peers and is no dupe of “the homosexual agenda”.
Although not identical to Washington’s marriage equality law, Rhode Island’s marriage bill (H 5015) provides the same sort of protections that Archbishop Sartain finds so comforting and cited in his policy paper:
15-3-6.1. Protection of freedom of religion in marriage. – (a) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States constitution and article I, section 3 of the Rhode Island constitution, each religious institution has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms, as long as such policies are consistent with sections 15-1-2, 15-1-3 and 15-1-4. No court or other state or local governmental body, entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution’s decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith’s tradition.
(b) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the first amendment to the United States constitution and article I, section 3 of 1 the Rhode Island constitution, no regularly licensed or ordained clergyperson, minister, elder, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination as described and authorized in sections 15-3-5 and 15-3-6 of the general laws to officiate at a civil marriage, is required to solemnize any marriage. A regularly licensed or ordained clergyperson, minister, elder, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action based on a refusal to solemnize any marriage under this chapter. No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any church or religious denomination on the refusal of a person associated with such church or religious denomination to solemnize a marriage under this chapter.
If a man on the hierarchy leadership track like Archbishop Sartain finds substance in religious freedom protections like these, what’s NOM-RI so worried about?