A Florida Pastor Protection Act Is In The Works

Jul 29, 2015

The Pastor Protection Act in Florida was written to mirror a similar bill recently passed in Texas.
Credit Robert Cheaib Via Flickr / WFSU News

In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage across the country, some are worried they’ll be forced to perform ceremonies that violate their beliefs. Two Florida lawmakers are writing a bill called the Pastor Protection Act.

Republican Florida Senator Aaron Bean and Florida Representative Scott Plakon are working with Reverend Chris Walker to draft the act. The bill would exempt religious leaders from performing marriages that go against their values.

Reverend Walker also has a petition on change.org. It has almost 23,000 signatures. Senator Bean says the bill will provide extra clarification.

“I suspect that there is so much confusion of how it goes forward, that I’m willing to go ahead and double down on the constitution and reaffirm it in Florida to say our pastors are – have freedom of religion,” Bean said.

The bill mirrors one recently signed in Texas and is similar to other Christian legal efforts. The Clergy and Religious Institutions Tax-Exempt Protection Act by the Christian Family Coalition aims to maintain a tax-exempt status for churches that refuse to perform gay marriages.

Meanwhile, members of Equality Florida and The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU are opposing the act.

Daniel Tilley is the LGBT Rights Attorney for the Florida ACLU. He says the bill isn’t needed.

“Well, we think it’s actually absolutely correct that churches cannot be forced to marry anyone, whether they’re gay, whether it’s two women, whether it’s an interracial couple,” Tilley said. “That’s already the law. This bill is wholly unnecessary and I think everyone in the legislature knows that.”  

Bean plans to file the bill in time for the upcoming 2016 legislative session.