Monday, June 29, 2009

A political reason for including substantive religious-liberty exemptions in the California Marriage Equality Act Initiative?

06/23/09 National Journal (source: Gay Marriage Watch):

This article concerns the scope of religious-liberty exemptions that several New England states have included in their marriage-equality laws. The National Journal also reports on the law professors who advocated for these exemptions. One of the law professors, Douglas Laycock, is a scholar on religious liberty and the law. He believes that such exemptions represent a good-faith effort to accommodate religious opponents of marriage-equality laws who object that the laws force them to violate the tenets of their faith. Substantive religious-liberty protections may, in fact, make a crucial difference in battleground states like California:

Compromising on exemptions won't win over every Christian conservative in the country -- and it doesn't need to, argued Laycock, an expert on religious liberty. Many gay-marriage opponents are worried that they will somehow be made complicit in same-sex unions, he argued. Neutralizing that concern could be the key to tipping the scales in some states.

"In California, you only needed to flip 2 percent of voters," Laycock said, referring to Proposition 8's victory last November by a 52-48 margin. "If you put in the religious exemption, I think you flip that 2 percent."

Laycock's comments have bearing on the California Marriage Equality Act Initiative, even though Laycock did not mention it. The latest version of that Initiative does little more than provide lip-service to the idea of protecting religious liberty. If Laycock is right, Yes on Equality, the Initiative's proponent, would have political reason to consider at least some of the adopted protections. The National Journal reports that Chris Edelson, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, supports (some of?) the exemptions, and so did Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

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