The next Florida legislative session doesn’t start until January, but committees are already meeting to consider bills. One measure up for discussion next week would shield churches when clergy refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
Sen. Aaron Bean (R- Fernandina Beach) is among the sponsors of the bill that’s been called an “ugly show of animosity toward gay people.” Those were the words Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith used earlier this year, as the Florida News Service reports.
Should a clergy person refuse to marry a couple, the bill shields churches from criminal and civil liability, protects their tax exemptions and says their government contracts should remain intact.
But current law already allows ministers to refuse to marry anyone they choose — leading gay-rights advocates to accuse bill sponsors of an unnecessary display of homophobia.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee is scheduled to take the measure up on Wednesday, Oct. 7.