As a result of yesterday's hearing, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee amended marriage-equality legislation to provide the following religious liberty exemptions:
Sec.5With one critical exception, these exemptions resemble those the D.C. Council provided in its recently adopted legislation [Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 (Bill 18-482, as revised November 10th; enrolled version not online].
b. No religious society, institution or organization in this State serving a particular faith or denomination shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges related to the solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage if such solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage is in violation of the beliefs of such religious society, institution or organization.
c. No civil claim or cause of action against any religious society, institution or organization, or any employee thereof, shall arise out of any refusal to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges pursuant to this section. No State action to penalize or withhold benefits from any such religious society, institution or organization, or any employee thereof, shall result from any refusal to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges pursuant to this section.
d. Nothing in this act shall be construed to limit the effect of section 2 of P.L.1979, c.428 (C.18A:35-4.7). [This law allows parents to exempt their children from public school lessons involving "health, family life education, or sex education" if in conflict with the parents' religious beliefs.]
Like the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee decided to extend the exemptions to religious organizations even if they followed the contested example of a NJ religious organization and rented their wedding facilities to heterosexual couples, but not same-sex couples. But with respect to services of religious organizations that "promote marriage," the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee limited their exemptions to just "religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats." The NJ Senate Judiciary Committee does not limit the scope of its exemptions in this way. As a result, a NJ religious organization would be free to deny same-sex couples any service "related to the promotion of marriage" - unless the state's public accommodation law (N.J.S.A. 10:1-5, described here) protects the right of gays and lesbians to receive that service.