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Controversial Legislation, Supreme Court Marriage, New Encyclical

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April 17, 2015

Controversial Legislation Brings Thousands to Halls of the Capitol

It is a busy time in the state legislature.  Many bills are being considered that ignite the electorate.  Rallies on the Capitol steps and crowds adorned with matching t-shirts have descended upon the city. 

The controversial issues of physician-assisted suicide, undermining pro-life pregnancy centers and mandatory vaccines are three bills among those drawing the greatest opposition.

While the physician-assisted suicide bill sits in the Senate Appropriations Committee, this week the Senate Education Committee heard testimony on SB 277 (Pan, D-Sacramento), which would require that students who attend school have ten mandatory vaccines.  SB 277, however, was tabled this week because of concerns over depriving non-vaccinated children of their right to public education.  The Conference is working to preserve the current religious beliefs exemption in state law should the bill progress (which is somewhat uncertain after this week’s contentious hearing.)

A new bill proposes to regulate pregnancy clinics but in actuality, AB 775 (Chui, D-San Francisco) is aimed at discriminating against centers that hold a pro-life viewpoint. This legislation may discourage women from getting the assistance they need and deserve as well as expose many of these centers to needless criminal or civil sanctions for failure to comply. 

AB 775 would enact the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency) Act, requiring certain facilities to advertise that every pregnant woman has the right to have a child or obtain an abortion. This notice will only be posted at certain clinics, specifically targeting those that are pro-life. 

This issue will be included in Catholic Advocacy Day on April 28. Please encourage a “NO” vote on AB 775 by contacting your local legislator.

U.S. Supreme Court Soon to Hear Arguments on Same-Sex Marriage: State Authority over Marriage Laws at Stake

On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether, under the Constitution, states must grant same-sex marriage licenses and recognize gay marriages legally performed in another state.

This case has serious implications for religious freedom and conscience rights. 

In November 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld state bans on gay marriage in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Because this decision split with four other federal circuit courts that overturned bans in certain other states, the case is now before the high court.

Currently gay marriage is legal in 37 states. But in 26 states, gay marriage was imposed by the courts – in direct conflict with state law and, in many states, by a vote of the people. In only eight states has gay marriage been authorized by the legislature and in only three by popular vote.

Californians have twice voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage – Proposition 22 in 2000, which affirmed that definition in state statute; and Proposition 8 in 2008, approved by 7 million voters, which enshrined it in the state Constitution.

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Pope’s Human Ecology Encyclical Expected this Summer

When elected as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, Pope Francis made a bold statement in selecting the name of a saint known for his care of the environment and love of the poor.   

Sometime this summer, he is expected to release his first encyclical and the topic - human ecology - may be just as bold, if not a lot more controversial.

Among the many issues sure to fire up any political debate in the U.S., climate change is one of the hottest.  Skeptics are already dismissing the letter as out of the realm of religion and environmentalists are eagerly claiming Pope Francis as their new champion.

No one can predict what will be contained in the encyclical but it’s fairly safe to say it will not be a scientific paper or a political endorsement. 

There is one source, however, that probably has a good idea of what to expect.  He is Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian prelate who serves as president of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace – which is responsible for the staff work on the letter. 

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April 17, 2015, Vol. 8, No. 15, En Español