The Republican controlled House in Ohio took one step closer to protect ministers from penalty if they refuse to perform a marriage that goes against their religious beliefs Wednesday when they passed a controversial Pastor Protection Act that some critics insist could lead to discrimination.
The bill, which legislators have been working on since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, is to help prevent “tension” and lawsuits regarding religious entities and same-sex marriage, according to sponsor Rep. Nino Vitale.
“Do we want Ohio to be a state that imposes something on pastors that is against their deeply held religious beliefs?” Vitale asked Wednesday on the House floor prior to a vote on the bill, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
“This is not a sword. This bill is intended to be a shield to protect everyone’s rights,” he said. “Are we going to allow groups to sue each other and use the heavy hand of the courts?”
“This tension that now exists is what House Bill 36, or the Ohio Pastor Protection Act, seeks to relieve,” Vitale explained according to NBC4i.
Dozens of pastors, many from Baptist churches, according to the Beacon Journal gave testimony in support of the bill over concern about future lawsuits due to the tension created from other Christian businesses that have been sued across the country, like wedding vendors such as florists and bakers.
Republican Rep. Mike Duffey of Worthington was among a minority in his party who did not vote for the bill.
“Our religious freedom is already fully protected in every way proposed, so let’s not send a signal to our talented LGBT Ohioans that they are unwelcome,” he said in a statement cited by the Beacon Journal.
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Source: Christian Post