TALLAHASSEE– Religious rights advocates got the first suggestion of approval while LGBT rights advocates were put off on a vote on anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the first hearing for the Pastor Protection Act (SB 110), the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation by a 7-3 vote after an hour of debate. The bill would provide protection for clergy and churches from any prosecution and lawsuits should gays be denied marriage services.
Bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said that pastors were concerned that they might be sued, dispite the fact that religious services are already protected by other bills in the state.
“This is not about individual choice, it’s about divine design that we are forced to reinforce,” said Gilberto Rodriguez, senior pastor of Templo Elias in Lutz.
Opponents argued that the Pastor Protection Act is redundant because of the U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious rights. They worry that the bill could be the first step in eroding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, according to the Miami Herald.
Many LGBT rights activists came to Tallahassee for the first hearing of the Competitive Workforce Act (SB 120), which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing civil rights laws.
Lawmakers did not vote on the bill before the Judiciary Committee’s meeting was required to end. All attempts by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, to force a vote were rejected by Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.
But chairman Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, promised the Competitive Workforce Act will get a full hearing at the panel’s next meeting.
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