The Texas Senate passed a bill on Tuesday which would protect the rights of certain religious organizations and pastors to refuse participation in marriage ceremonies which violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs. The Governor said he will sign a bill that offers such protection to pastors and ministers.
Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) authored Senate Bill 2065, entitled “Freedom of Religion with Respect to Recognizing or Performing Certain Marriages.”
“Pastors’ First Amendment rights are very important, and they should not be caused to do something that violates their sincerely held beliefs,” Senator Estes told Breitbart Texas.
The Senate bill amends Texas Family Code to provide that a religious organization, an institution supervised or controlled by a religious organization, an individual employed by one of these organizations, a member of the clergy, or a minister “may not be required to solemnize any marriage, or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.”
It also prohibits discrimination against religious organizations which decline participation in marriage ceremonies under these conditions:
A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges [under this law] is not the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any protected organization or individual.
During debates on Monday, the Texas Senate defeated two amendments proposed by Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio).
The first was an amendment to insert “acting in that capacity” after the word “minister” and before the word “may.”
Sen. Menendez’ second amendment would, if passed, have required an organization or individual described by this law to “post notice of that fact in all places of business of the organization or individual, including an Internet website. The notice may refer to the religious beliefs of the organization or individual. The notice must specifically state the persons to whom, and the marriages in connection with which, the organization or individual refuses to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges”.
Both amendments were tabled by a vote after motion of Senator Estes.
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, Rev. Dave Welch, President of Texas Pastor Council Action said this about debate over the bill:
The questions raised by Democrat Senators Rodriguez, Hinojosa, Garcia and Whitmire were the same given by LGBT supporters in the State Affairs Committee. However, bill author Senator Craig Estes addressed each very effectively and kept it focused on what the bill is intended to do. That, simply, is to protect Texas pastors who stand strong on the Biblical view of God’s design of male, female, marriage and family from being forced by threat of criminal or civil punishment by declining to “solemnize” weddings that violate those convictions.
Liberal senators like John Whitmire attempted to minimize the threat by arrogantly declaring that he had, ‘spoken to a fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor, a personal friend, and assured him there is no problem.’ He also declared that he knew of no person from the LGBT community who would want a clergy led wedding and they ‘just wanted to be left alone.’
Senator Whitmire apparently lives in a parallel universe that does not have the Human Rights Campaign, President Barack Obama and Mayors like Annise Parker in Houston who are willing and committed to using police powers to force acceptance of the LGBTQIA agenda.
Co-Authors of the bill include Senators Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Don Huffines (R-Dallas), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), and Van Taylor (R-Plano).
The Senate Bill passed by a vote of 21-10.
Only one Democrat Senator voted for the bill, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville).
On April 22nd, Breitbart Texas reported that pastors descended to the Texas Capitol to support House Bill 3567. The House bill, like S.B. 2065, protects the rights of certain religious organizations and individuals who refuse to perform or recognize a gay marriage.
Pastors and others were in Austin to testify in the Senate Affairs Committee on May 4th.
The House Bill has been calendared for the House floor.
Senator Estes predicted that either the House or Senate version would ultimately be passed along to Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott, through his personal Twitter account, said he hoped to see the legislation on his desk soon.
“It’s always a good sign when the Governor tweets out support for your bill,” Estes replied cheerfully. “The State clearly needed to make a statement this year. The Legislature needed to speak out on this issue.”
This article has been updated.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2