The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 to move forward the so-called Pastor Protection Act “providing that churches or religious organizations, related organizations, or certain individuals may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for related purposes if such action would violate a sincerely held religious belief,” according to the bill’s text.
The Jan. 26 Judiciary Committee vote fell right along party lines, with all Republican committee members voting in favor of the anti-gay bill and all Democrat committee members voting against it.
There was extensive public comment from various pastors preaching in favor of the bill, with just one speaker taking the podium in opposition: Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida’s government affairs manager. Smith spoke against the bill then fielded questions from the committee members regarding the bill’s specific protections.
The bill still has to clear the Community Affairs and Rules committees before heading to the State Senate floor for a vote.
An identical bill in the Florida House cleared Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee in October of 2015 and had a first reading before the Judiciary Committee Jan. 12.
Extensive debate on unnecessay “pastor protections” means the other LGBT-related bill, the Competitive Workforce Act, was not left enough time to be discussed or voted upon.
It will be the first bill that we hear next week, and we’re going to dedicate plenty of time to this bill,” said Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R). Before Diaz de la Portilla adjourned the meeting, Senator Joseph Abruzzo (D), who introduced the bill, said he looks forward to next week’s discussion.