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State of Rhode Island General Laws 15-3-6.1

Protection of freedom of religion in marriage.

(a) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Rhode Island Constitution, each religious institution has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within its faith, and on what terms, as long as such policies are consistent with §§ 15-1-2, 15-1-3, 15-1-4, and 15-1-5. No court or other state or local governmental body, entity, agency, or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution's decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith's tradition. (b) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Rhode Island Constitution, no regularly licensed or ordained clergyperson, minister, elder, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination as described and authorized in §§ 15-3-5 and 15-3-6 to officiate at a civil marriage, is required to solemnize any marriage. A regularly licensed or ordained clergyperson, minister, elder, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action based on a refusal to solemnize any marriage under this chapter. No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any church or religious denomination on the refusal of a person associated with such church or religious denomination to solemnize a marriage under this chapter. (c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religions organization, association, or society, and any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization, association, or society, or a fraternal benefit or service organization that has among its stated purposes the promotion and support or protection of a religious organization, association, or society and that restricts membership to practicing members of that religious organization, association, or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to: (1) The solemnization of a marriage or the celebration of a marriage, and such solemnization or celebration is in violation of its religious beliefs and faith; or (2) The promotion of marriage through any social or religious programs or services, that violates the religious doctrine or teachings of religious organization, association, or society. Any refusal by an entity described above or an officer, employee, or member thereof acting in an official capacity on behalf of that entity to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action. This subsection shall not be construed to limit a religious organization, association, or society, or a fraternal benefit or service organization as described in this subsection, from selectively providing services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to some individuals with respect to solemnization or celebration of a marriage but not to others. (d) Nothing in the marriage laws of this state shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions provided to religious organizations under §§ 28-5-6(8)(ii) and 34-37-4.2(a). (e) A fraternal benefit or service organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization and a fraternal benefit or service organization that has among its stated purposes the promotion, support, or protection of a religious organization and that restricts its membership to practicing members of that religious organization shall not be required to admit any individual as a member or to provide benefits to any individual. A refusal by a fraternal benefit or service organization by a member, officer, or employee thereof acting in an official capacity on behalf of a society described herein, to admit an individual as a member or to provide benefits related to a marriage that is in violation of the religious doctrine or teachings of the religious organization to which its members are required to adhere, shall not create a civil claim or result in any government action to penalize; withhold benefits from the fraternal benefit or service organization; or discriminate against a society, or a member, officer, or employee described herein.

(P.L. 2013, ch. 4, § 4; P.L. 2013, ch. 5, § 4; P.L. 2014, ch. 528, § 49.)


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