The Washington Post is reporting that a D.C. Council Committee is bowing to the pressure of the Archdiocese of Washington and other religious organizations because they don't like the language of the original marriage equality bill.
The current language states that religious officials who offer services to the public would have to offer those same wedding-related services to same-sex couples as well. This will restrict charitable services argue the religious institutions.
The proposed revisions mean, for example, that church officials do not have to rent reception space to a same-sex couple for a wedding, even if heterosexual couples can access that space. But churches would still have to abide by other aspects of the city's Human Rights Act, including not discriminating against gay employees who choose to get married.Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry breaks it down.
"It was just clear, as a result of the testimony and as a result of the result of the public process, there were some fixes that needed to be made," said Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) released Monday a revised draft of the same-sex marriage bill ... [The] original bill noted that “a religious organization, association or society, or a nonprofit organization which is operated, supervised, or controlled by” a church or religious group “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods” for the purpose of performing any marriage “unless the entity makes such services, accommodations, or goods available … to members of the general public.” The revised bill removes the “unless the entity makes such services, accommodations, or goods available … to members of the general public” language. In a 22-page report that accompanies the bill’s new version, Mendelson’s committee says it “removed this language … after considerable comment from both secular and non-secular organizations ... Including this language would have had the undesirable impact of religious institutions closing their spaces to community groups and organizations, as there would otherwise be civil [liability] stemming from any refusal to solemnize or celebrate a same-sex marriage.The changes will be revealed Tuesday afternoon after the committee votes on the proposed amendments, then it will be sent to full council.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. Though I understand the need to protect religious liberty and adamantly support it, I don't know of any legislation exempting religious institutions who offer public services to anyone from discrimination laws protecting African American couples, interracial couples, old couples, couples who have divorced and are remarrying. Why is it necessary to write legalized discrimination against same-sex couples into the legislation? Why single us out?
I hope that this is just a way to get the bill passed with less controversy and the plan is to go back and revise. But again, why is this necessary since 10 out of the 13 coucilmembers are co-sponsors and intend to vote for it?
Another major change will allow domestic partnership in the District to continue alongside same-sex marriage, making the capital the first jurisdiction in the country to offer both institutions. Many LGBT advocacy groups argued to keep marriage separate from domestic partnerships, and that one should not supersede the other.
The bill is expected to be approved before Christmas.