The anti-gay and unnecessary Pastor Protection Act is headed to Governor Rick Scott.
Florida’s Senate voted in favor of HB43 23-15 on March 3, as the end of the 2016 legislative session nears. Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami) is the only Senator to cross party lines, voting against the bill.
The Pastor Protection Act purports to prevent religious leaders from being forced to perform same-sex weddings, even though under current laws protecting religious beliefs, clergy can already opt out of marrying any couple they choose, gay or straight.
On March 1, Florida’s Senate approved amendments that narrowed the scope of the bill by defining which religious organizations the bill covers and removing vague language that may have conflicted with Florida’s Civil Rights Act.
“The most important agreement in these negotiations has been the firm commitment of the bill sponsors and legislative leadership that this bill will not be expanded to legalize discrimination in the ways we’ve seen unfold in other states,” says Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida’s Government Affairs Manager, in a media release. “While we still believe this bill is an unnecessary duplication of existing law, we are pleased Florida will not go down the path of Georgia, where an expanded ‘pastor protection’ bill would allow LGBT people and others to be refused goods and services.”
Gov. Scott is expected to sign the bill into law.
Several pro- and anti-gay bills were introduced in the Florida Legislative Session this year, but the Pastor Protection Act is the only one to make it out of committee hearings.