Texas Senate Approves Bill Allowing Ministers Right to Deny Same-Sex Marriages
Today the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill — the Pastor Protection Act — that would allow religious ministers the right to deny performing a marriage ceremony to a couple if doing so would violate his or her religious beliefs. While the bill's sponsor, Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), acknowledged an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer that could legalize same-sex marriage, he said the bill is designed to protect clergy members from potential lawsuits.
"It is not my intention to discriminate against anyone with this bill. My intention is to protect pastors', ministers' and clergy's first amendment rights," Estes said.
He said the bill is limited in focus to marriage ceremonies and would not apply to interracial couples.
Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) voted against the bill. He said via a public statement that the bill "is a solution in search of a problem. In the more than 30 states where same-sex couples can legally marry, no clergy or house of worship has ever been compelled to perform a same-sex wedding,” Ellis said. “The fact is that there are many faith traditions that embrace gay and lesbian couples and joyfully celebrate these marriages. Nobody is reliant on forcing a reluctant pastor in order to get married."
To reach the governor's desk, the bill must pass the Senate on a final reading before heading to the House. With less than a month left in this legislative session, lawmakers are facing a series of deadlines.