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Bill Protecting Pastors Who Refuse to Marry Same-Sex Couples Gets First OK

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A bill, SB 2065, that would protect churches and clergy who don't want to marry a same-sex couple, is one step short of heading to Gov. Greg Abbott for a signature.

Religious objections to gay marriage would be protected from lawsuits, if a bill passed by the Texas House becomes law.

It got a first OK Thursday by the House and is expected to get final passage today. 

The bill, titled Senate Bill 2065 from State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, states that a church, pastor or clergy member’s "sincerely held religious belief" against gay marriage would be protected from lawsuits or criminal prosecution.

State Rep. Celia Israel, an Austin Democrat, said at the podium that one day she and her partner will get married in Texas.

"When that day comes, the pastors who will take a more literal interpretation of the Bible...my partner and I of 20 years will not be going to them to bless our union," Rep. Israel said. "I will be going to someone who loves and respects us for who we are and the way that we’ve taken care for one another."

Israel pointed out that the U.S. Constitution already protects a pastor’s choice to marry or not marry a couple, and she respects that. So she said she supported the bill. In a surprise move, that's one reason all but two Democrats in the House joined Republicans to pass the legislation. 

The measure needs final approval from the House before heading to the governor, who's expected to sign it into law. 

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