AB 19, The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, was introduced on December 6th, 2004 by the Lead Authors, Assemblymember Mark Leno & Speaker Fabian Nunez. AB 19 was Sponsored by Equality California, www.EQCA.org.
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act will guarantee the California Constitution’s protection of religious freedom and ensure equal treatment under the law by allowing same-sex couples to marry in California. The purpose of the proposed law is to change Section 300 to read: "Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between two persons." It currently reads "a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman." In Layman’s terms, the bill would amend state law to end discrimination against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses within California. AB 19 acknowledges once and for all that same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships and their families are entitled to equal dignity, liberty, and protection under California law.
Some may ask "What is Marriage?" California law currently provides registered domestic partners with a significant number of legal rights, benefits, responsibilities, duties, and obligations available to married couples. Although California’s domestic partner law is very important, it is not equal to marriage. Heterosexual married couples benefit from more than one thousand rights and responsibilities under federal law that are unavailable to domestic partners, the right to collect social security survivor’s benefits, the right to family and medical leave, and the right to file joint income tax returns. Marriage is also not simply a legal status. It is a social institution that our society recognizes as the ultimate expression of love and commitment. Married couples are recognized as a family unit and are afforded a unique respect and dignity in our culture.
AB 19 does not restrict the practice of any religious belief. The federal and state Constitutions protect religious freedom. Religious officials may currently refuse to perform marriages that do not fulfill the requirements of their religious faith. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act does not change this principle in any respect, but in fact re-enforces it. The bill does not require any religious official to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. Nothing in the Act will restrict the freedom of clergy members to refuse to perform marriages for same-sex partners.