Texas law protecting pastors passes Texas House

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A new bill is on its way to the Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk that would protect the clergy’s right to say “no.” It would allow pastors to excuse themselves from performing weddings that violate their religious beliefs. The final product garnered overwhelming support.

People in the LGBT community are worried this law could lead to discrimination. Many worried this bill would go outside the legal realm like it did in other states.

“I just wanted to clarify,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, “this cannot force a church to perform a wedding it doesn’t want to. As it exists under current law.”

‘That is a portion of the purpose of this bill, yes sir,” responded the bill’s House author, Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney.

Fears arose after the City of Houston subpoenaed five pastors for organizing people against LGBT causes; and with a looming Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, pastors feared lawsuits.

“It became apparent, over time, that this was a real issue for pastors and churches,” said Rep. Sanford, who convinced his colleagues the law would stay in the religious realm. The bill passed 141-2.

“As you witnesses, the Texas Legislature said – Texas pastors, Texas churches, we got your back,” said Sanford.

Democrats came along because they see the bill also defending churches who marry same-sex couples

“Members we’re also affirming the fact, that gay people get married in our churches here in Texas, every day,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

So whatever your beliefs, they’ll soon be protected, twice.

The bill, which already passed the Texas Senate, will need final approval Friday and then it’s off to Abbott, who supports the bill.

Stricter laws have been struck down this year, even in states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. Critics worried laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas would allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. Governors of both states later passed watered-down versions of the bills guaranteeing “equal treatment.” Same-sex marriage is legal in Indiana but remains illegal in Arkansas.

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