Friday, April 24, 2009

Connecticut Law Implements Same-Sex Marriage Ruling With Exemptions For Religious Organziations

Yesterday Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell signed S.B. No. 899, a bill to implement the state Supreme Court's 2008 decision validating same-sex marriages. (AP). The bill also recognizes same-sex civil unions from other states and merges Connecticut civil unions into marriages. On Wednesday, the Senate and House both adopted amendments granting extensive religious exemptions. Those exemptions provide:
[A] religious organization ... or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization ..., shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request for [them]... is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage and such solemnization or celebration is in violation of their religious beliefs and faith....

... The marriage laws of this state shall not ... shall not require a fraternal benefit society ... which is operated, supervised or controlled by ... a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the fraternal benefit society's free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and section 3 of article first of the Constitution of the state.

Nothing in this act shall be deemed or construed to affect the manner in which a religious organization may provide adoption, foster care or social services if such religious organization does not receive state or federal funds for that specific program or purpose.

The bill also provides that no member of the clergy shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to the free exercise of religion and no church shall be required to participate in solemnizing a marriage in violation of its religious beliefs.

Yesterday's edition of The Edge reports on the amendments adopted Wednesday. Yesterday's Hartford Courant, reporting on the bill, points out that the state legislature rejected broader proposals that would have exempted objecting individuals and businesses from having to provide services in connection with same-sex marriages.