The argument about religion and marriage took a new turn on Tuesday when California’s Assembly passed a bill saying that “marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil, and not religious, contract.”

The bill, SB 1140, will go back to the Senate for a conference vote before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown. Its sponsor, State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, argues that the legislation would remove objections to same-sex marriage because it protects religious groups from losing their tax-exempt status if their leaders refuse to perform ceremonies for gay couples.

Opponents say religious leaders’ right not to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples is already protected by the First Amendment, so the bill will just cause confusion.

The larger debate about religion — particularly Christianity — and marriage continues to roil. Leaders on opposite sides of the same-sex question squared off Aug. 15 when Seattle columnist Dan Savage invited Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, for dinner. Here’s the result:

Savage is known for “It Gets Better,” a campaign to stop anti-gay bullying. Brown was one of the leaders of the campaign for Prop. 8 in California, which bans same-sex marriage.

Savage extended the invitation in response to a challenge from Brown. Brown wanted an opportunity to refute Savage’s earlier assertion that Christians should stop using the Bible to oppose homosexuality just as they have stopped using it to support slavery.

Who won? Well, predictably no one conceded defeat. And moderator Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times concluded that combining dinner and debate didn’t improve either one. But he hasn’t given up on the concept.

Can Christians Accept Same-Sex Marriage? Dan Savage, NOM’s Brian Brown Debate Over Dinner (Video) 29 August,2012Laird Harrison

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