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Pastor Protection Act Clears First Committee

October 7th, 2015 by flanews

The Supreme Court ruling earlier this year legalizing gay marriage across the country has sparked potential new legislation in Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, some in Florida’s Capitol believe clergy need new protections to preserve their faith.

St. Petersburg pastor Paul Gibson doesn’t have same sex couples knocking down his door for him to marry them. But he’s not opposed to doing it.

“My policy would be that I would insist on premarital counseling with them, and after that I would make the decision on whether I thought they should be married, the same way I would with a mixed gender couple,” he said.

Men and women of faith were out in full force Wednesday turning a House committee into a divided religious debate.

State Representative Scott Plakon’s (R-Longwood) “Pastor Protection Act” aims to protect clergy from being forced to marry couples that infringe on their beliefs.

“As everyone knows there’s been numerous changes in the law and the culture,” he said to the committee.

Central Florida Reverend Chris Walker says pastors refusing same sex marriages could be targeted.

“They have their right to be married and that’s fine, they have their license to play house, but we’re going to preach the bible, and we’re not going to be held accountable for preaching the truth, because truth is now the new terrorism,” said Walker.

Opponents of the bill say men and women of the cloth are already protected.

“Pastors cannot be forced to marry people, they have a right to decide who they want to marry,” said Rep. Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg).

Pastor Brant Copeland, who’s church is down the street from the Capitol, said the law isn’t needed and took it a step further.

“I urge you not to adopt this unnecessary and, I think, basically homophobic bill,” he said.

Similar legislation has already passed in Texas and Oklahoma.

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