No high resolution image exists...
By Ken Pierce
Sacramento, CA – May 18, 2010 – Today Senator Mark Leno (D – San Francisco) hosted a discussion at the State Capitol of a bill he sponsored to hopefully help define a confusing aspect of the same-sex marriage fight that may be headed back to the polls in California in 2012. SB 906 was introduced January 27, 2010 and named the Civil Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.
The summary of the bill states that it does reaffirm the freedom of the clergy to make faith-based decisions regarding which marriages they solemnize and further clarifies the distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage. It also clarifies that religious institutions would not lose their tax-exempt status in California if they refuse to solemnize a certain marriage that is contrary to their religious faith.
Among the discussion group was Sen. Leno, New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, and Equality California Executive Director, Geoff Kors.
Bishop Robinson is the first openly gay priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination. As a high-ranking member of the clergy, Bishop Robinson has advocated for equal protection under the law and for full civil marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The Bishop mentioned that New Hampshire enacted a similar bill which helped pave the way for the legalization of same-sex-marriages in his state.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda is a courageous vocal opponent to Uganda’s proposed legislation to criminalize and execute members of the LGBT community. The government could soon outlaw his ministry with Integrity Uganda, and Bishop Christopher could be put in prison for his support of LGBT Ugandans. While the Bishop praised the Religious Freedom and Marriage Act proposed in California, his real message is that Religious zealots here in the United States are still fueling support for Uganda taking a harsh stand towards Ugandan LGBT citizens. While their verbal support has been hushed due to the huge backlash of media attention, Bishop Senyonio said, “Money from the U.S. is still flowing into Uganda as well as other African nations in support of strong governmental actions targeting homosexuals”.
Now that the heated debate of when to put to the vote to same-sex-marriage is settled, EQCA is moving ahead with a strategy to win the support of California citizens. Their network of offices and volunteers, including here in Sacramento, has been making thousands of phone calls and knocking on doors across the state. Geoff Kors, executive director led the way for his organization to become a co-sponsor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage bill as part of that new strategy.
Currently SB 906 is on its third reading on the Senate Floor. The bill is sponsored by EQCA and California Council of Churches. It receives official support from AIDS Project Los Angeles, Anti-Defamation League, Asian Americans for Civil Rights & Equality, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, California Teachers Association, Consumer Attorneys of California, Jewish Political Action Committee (JPAC), Sacramento Lawyers for the Equality of Gays and Lesbians, Inland Counties Stonewall Democrats, and the City of West Hollywood.
Ken Pierce is a local Sacramento writer and Director of Public Relations for Equality Action Now.
Photos by Ken Pierce:
1. (L to R) New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, California Sen. Mark Leno
2. (L to R) Geoff Kors, Bishop Robinson, Uganda Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Sen. Mark Leno
3. View of the California State Capitol Building