TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) - Dozens of religious leaders converged Thursday on the Capitol as the House Judiciary Committee took up a bill known as the "Pastor Protection Act." The measure (HB 43) filed by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, cleared its second House committee and is ready to go to the House floor.
The proposal would prevent clergy members from being forced to perform marriage ceremonies contrary to their beliefs --- an issue that gained momentum last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.
Pastors who spoke Thursday were divided, with Pastor Clare Chance of the Avondale United Methodist Church in Jacksonville opposed to the bill. "I'm a Christian, and I believe that all people are God's children," she said. "This definitely casts aspersions on my brothers and sisters who are different from me. Yes, I am a heterosexual, but the LGBTQ people deserve respect, too."
However, Elder Ervin Donaldson of the Zion Hill Primitive Baptist Church in Sopchoppy was strongly in favor of the bill. "I will not go against my God, and when you talk about family … family first starts with a man and a woman," he said. "I can't see any other way. I will not do it, and I will not let you all handcuff me for something I am doing right for God."
Supporters say the measure also would help protect the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that don't want to take part in marriages that violate their beliefs.
The Senate version (SB 110), filed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, passed its first committee last month and is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the Senate Community Affairs Committee.
Information taken from The News Service of Florida.