They wanted to force the Catholic Church to choose one wrong or another. It is hard to imagine an uglier or more tyrannical impulse in a politician.
The church resisted. Catholic Charities of Sacramento sued the state, seeking to protect its own and everyone else's freedom of religion.
"This lawsuit has very little to do with health insurance and everything to do with our fundamental rights as Americans," Roman Catholic Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento explained at the time. "It boils down to a very simple question. Under the Constitution, does the state of California have the right to tell its citizens how to practice their religion?"
Three Protestant churches - -including the Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Worldwide Church of God -- joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in filing an amicus brief supporting Catholic Charities.
"The state proposes a rule of law that forces a church institution, in violation of its own self-identity and constitution, to pay for something in its own workplace that the institution holds and teaches to be sinful," the churches said in this brief.
"Today's case is about contraceptives," they said. "Tomorrow's will present some other issue that elicits public division, such as abortion, assisted suicide, cloning, or some issue of self-governance, such as the use of resources for evangelization or who a religious agency may hire to do ministry work."
The California Supreme Court's decision was bold and simple. It conceded that the California law demanded that the Catholic Church act against its own teachings.
"We do not doubt Catholic Charities' assertion that to offer insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives to its employees would be religiously unacceptable," said the court.
But it concluded that the state's interest in eliminating "gender discrimination" trumped the Catholic Church's freedom of religion.
"Assuming for the sake of argument the (law) substantially burdens a religious belief or practice, the law nevertheless serves a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest," said the court. "The (law) serves the compelling state interest of eliminating gender discrimination."
Catholic Charities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court refused to take the case up, letting California's law stand.
Apologists for New York's same-sex marriage law argue that it includes a religious exemption that protects churches from having to officiate over same-sex marriages and protects them in "taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained" -- including in its employment practices.
That is, of course, until the same kind of ideologues who are now pushing same-sex marriage laws begin suing churches in states where same-sex marriage is a "right" because, they argue, the churches have made them victims of "gender discrimination."
Then Anthony Kennedy gets to decide.