House Bill 43, also known as the Pastor Protection Act, received a third approval Tuesday, bringing it one step closer to becoming law. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill earlier this month with a 12-5 vote.
The purpose of the bill is to protect religious organizations and individuals from being required to “solemnize a marriage or provide services or accommodations for related purposes” if it would violate their religious beliefs.
If an individual or organization should refuse to accommodate the other party, they would be protected against certain legal actions or governmental penalties under this bill.
Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) introduced the bill in 2015, with support from several other representatives, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to be married though the bill does not state it is targeted toward same-sex couples.
“We just think it’s a good idea to put this in law now, so that no pastor or religious professional would ever have to be forced to violate their sincerely held beliefs,” Plakon in a statement to WJXT Jacksonville said.
The Sun Sentinel editorial board said the proposed legislation is “completely unnecessary” in an article opposing the bill. They argue that the U.S. Constitution already provides legal protection to pastors.
There have been no cases where city or county in Florida attempting to force a member of the clergy to perform a same-sex marriage.
The Sun Sentinel went on to clarify that private entities, such as a religious denomination, have a right to choose whether it will allow its clergy to perform a same-sex wedding but secular entities, such as a court, do not.
This is why Kim Davis, Kentucky clerk of court, was required to issue same-sex marriage licenses in her county.
Pastor Charles Pettis of Go2 Church in Tallahassee says this bill is not about protecting the pastor personally but about protecting the religious beliefs of the pastor.
“How a person chooses to practice their love life is up to them but I don’t feel like we as pastors need to be put into a position that we have to marry who ever comes to us, regardless of sexual preference. If we do the next thing you know they’ll be telling us what we can preach,” Pettis said.