Push for ‘Pastor Protection Act’ not necessary

By : Jamie Hyman
Comments: 1

A Clermont pastor is pushing Gov. Rick Scott to back a bill that would “protect” clergy from having to conduct same-sex weddings, despite the fact that religious leaders are already protected from being forced to lead gay wedding ceremonies.

As of July 8, more than 14,000 people have signed Rev. Chris Walker’s Change.org petition backing a ‘Pastor Protection Act.’ Walker leads the Cathedral of Power International Church.

“In light of the recent Supreme Court Decision on Marriage. [sic] We would like to see our rights protected as Clergy,” the petition reads. However, the landmark June 26 Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality legal across the United States not only doesn’t require clergy to perform same-sex marriages, it specifically recognizes religious leaders’ 1st Amendment protections.

“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advo¬cate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine pre¬cepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered,” the majority opinion reads.

Mary Meeks, an Orlando attorney and LGBT activist who was part of the legal team that fought to make same-sex marriage legal in Florida, notes that Clerks of Court can be sued for refusing to provide marriage licenses to same sex couples, because that is part of their government job. For clergy, performing marriage ceremonies is “completely ceremonial and voluntary” and therefore, they cannot be forced to do so.

“Same-sex marriage has been legal in increasing numbers of states for more than 10 years, yet I defy the proponents to produce an example of clergy being sued for refusing to perform a same-sex ceremony,” Meeks said. “This proposal is just another attempt to exploit anti-gay animus among those few who still want to hate on the LGBT community now that they have been soundly defeated and their hateful laws declared unconstitutional.”

Florida Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) is drafting a version of the ‘Pastor Protection Act,’ as confirmed by his secretary who said it is still in the drafting phase and nothing has been filed yet.

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