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Government/Politics

Senate Gives Same-Sex Religious Objections Bill Preliminary Approval

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Ryan E. Poppe
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Members of the Texas Senate have given preliminary approval to a bill that would protect religious leaders opposed to same-sex marriage.  The bill would give ministers the option of not performing wedding services, should the US Supreme Court strike down state bans on gay marriage.

The legislation by Wichita Falls Republican Sen. Craig Estes seeks to prevent any possibility that a minister in the state could be forced to marry a same-sex couple should the Supreme Court strike down state bans on the recognition of same-sex marriage.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want the courts making decisions on ecclesiastical arguments about theology, the courts have stayed way-away from that, as they should,” Estes said.

Estes’ senate colleagues worry his bill will create situations that lead to lawsuits when individual pastors don’t agree with their congregation’s stance on same-sex marriage and weddings performed inside the church.

But one of the bigger sticking points for San Antonio Democratic Sen. Jose Menendez was the absence of the words, “Acting in the capacity of a pastor or minister.” Menendez worries that not clarifying that point could lead to abuse.

“All I want is to make sure we were clear that in this protection we are providing a pastor or minister that they are doing it in their capacity as a pastor or minister. Here’s an example, let’s say there is a JP who is also a clergy person could refuse a civil marriage,” Menendez explained.

Estes refused to take Menendez’s suggestions for changing the bill’s wording. 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the senate calls the legislation a win for religious freedom everywhere.

"SB 2065 protects our churches and pastors from participating in any part of a marriage that is against their beliefs,” Patrick said in a statement released by his office.

The bill passed on a vote of 21 to 10. After a final vote it will head over to the House, which must happen before the May 26th deadline.