Thursday, March 10, 2016
Romine: SJR 39 is a shield, not a sword
By all accounts, this 10th week of session began just like any other — or at least the first 15 minutes did. On Monday, right after the Senate chaplain presided over a brief prayer and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Senate Joint Resolution 39 was offered and the longest continuous filibuster in recent state history began.
As I detailed in my column two weeks ago, SJR 39 is a proposed constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from penalizing a religious organization or individual who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief. Protected acts include refusing to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony or allow the ceremony to be performed on the organization’s property, as well as declining to provide goods of expressional or artistic creation for the ceremony. Nothing in the resolution prevents the state from providing lawful marriage licenses or other marital benefits, and it does not allow a hospital to refuse to treat a marriage as valid for the purposes of a spouse’s right to visitation or to make health care decisions.
Those opposed to the measure claim it creates a broad religious exemption that will lead to widespread discrimination, but that is simply untrue. The scope of SJR 39 is narrowly limited, and to put it another way, it is a shield, not a sword.