Anti-gay Pastor Protection Act advances

By : Jamie Hyman
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An unnecessary, anti-gay bill that purports to protect religious leaders from being forced to conduct same-sex weddings is one step closer to becoming law.

The Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4 to move the Pastor Protection Act forward. They committee members voted along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against the bill.

This, despite testimony from faith leaders from around the state who spoke against the bill and called it “dangerous” and “unnecessary,” according to Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida’s Government Affairs Manager, who attended the Oct. 7 subcommittee meeting in Tallahassee.

In an emailed statement, Smith reports that the bill has one more stop before heading to the House floor. A companion bill has not moved in the Senate.

Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) introduced the bill in August. Back then, Watermark asked Plakon why the bill is necessary, as religious leaders are already protected from being forced to conduct any sort of wedding ceremony at all, including gay ones.

“With the trajectory of how public policy and the courts have moved on all this [marriage equality], it’s really impossible to predict what will happen next,” Plakon told Watermark. “It’s kind of a backstop, if you will, to ensure that religious practitioners won’t ever have to deal with that decision.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, making same-sex marriage the law of the land.

The ACLU sent a letter urging the subcommittee to reject the Pastor Protection Act. Here’s an excerpt:

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, which is why it’s protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. This includes the right of churches and other houses of worship to decide which religious marriages they will host. As a result, houses of worship and clergy already have the freedom to determine which marriages they will and won’t perform in their faith traditions. Allowing same-sex couples to marry doesn’t change that, and neither would defeat of this bill. Even before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples had the freedom to marry in over 30 states, and in no instance have clergy been forced to marry a same-sex couple or anyone else against their religious beliefs.”


“The bill suggests that clergy need protection from gay couples, and it distracts from important conversations about protecting gay and transgender people, who continue to experience discrimination.

“It’s time for our state to update our laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination.”

ACLU Pastor Protection Letter.

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