Thursday, March 10, 2016

Romine: SJR 39 is a shield, not a sword

(From Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington)

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.

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