CLERMONT -- Now that marriage between same-sex couples is legal nationwide, some religious leaders are fighting to make sure their rights are upheld.
Chris Walker is a pastor at Cathedral of Power in Clermont. He said his first amendment rights are being challenged and wants to confirm that pastors won’t be required to perform same-sex marriages.
“The government does not have the right to tell us as religious clergy how to perform the duties that we have,” said Walker.
Walker is not alone on his views.
He’s created an online petition part of the “Pastor Protection Act” and so far more than 8,500 people have signed it.
Recently, Texas and Oklahoma have new laws saying religious clergy can’t be forced by their states to perform ceremonies that may go against religious beliefs.
Walker wants that to be the case in Florida and wants it in writing - in a law - as a proactive approach for pastors by the state to avoid discrimination lawsuits.
Attorney Jaya Balani with NeJame Law said while that’s true, it all comes down to where the money goes.
“They do have their religious freedom to say they don’t want to especially in a non-profit church. When it goes into for-profit there’s a different situation – discrimination,” said Balani.
Members of Equality Florida – a statewide LGBT advocacy organization - tells News 13 a proposed law like this is “redundant and unnecessary under the first amendment.”
Florida State Representative Scott Plakon is drafting the proposed bill and released a statement to News 13 saying:
“Court positions in the area of same-sex marriage vs. religious freedom have been evolving so rapidly, it’s important that we provide pastors and other clergy that do so much important work in our communities this additional layer of clarity, certainty, comfort, and protection in state law. I call on my friends from Equality Florida to help in supporting passage of this legislation, just as their counterpart organization, Equality Texas, did in that state recently.”
Representative Plakon and State Senator Aaron Bean are finalizing the draft, which will be filed with the state in the next couple weeks in time for January’s legislative session.
Source: News 13