TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The "pastor protection act" aimed at preventing lawsuits against churches or preachers for refusing to perform same-sex marriages is ready for a vote on the Florida House floor, where it's likely to pass.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure after lengthy debate Thursday. That was the final committee stop for the bill in the House. It still faces two more Senate committee hearings before it can go to a floor vote there.
The bill passed on a near-party line vote in the committee. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee was the only Democrat voting in favor.
Nearly 40 pastors and gay rights activists spoke on the bill. Most of the clergymen favored the bill.
“Family first starts with a man and a woman. I don’t see it any other way. I will not do it, and I will not let you handcuff me for something I’m doing right for God," Miami Pastor D. Donaldson said.
But several representing large, mainstream denominations opposed it, saying it's not needed.
But the Christian Family Coalition pointed to two lawsuits in other states that embroiled small churches in litigation.
"We have cases in the United States where ministers have been sued, that’s why we need it," said Anthony Verdugo with the coalition.
Even supporters said that they hope the protections are never needed.
“You never hope you’re going to need your airbag, right? But frankly, you’d like to have one just in case," Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said.
Capitol News Service reporter Mike Vasilinda contributed to this report.