ATLANTA, Georgia, February 15, 2016 – Clergy in the state of Georgia are one step closer to reinforced conscience protection after legislation passed by the Georgia House Thursday.
House Bill 757, also known as the Pastor Protection Act, protects religious officials from being forced to imitate marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples and was approved in a 161-0 vote, moving on now to the Georgia Senate.
“Religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies, perform rites, or administer sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion,” the bill states. It also says refusal by an ordained person shall not result in a civil claim or cause of action against him, nor result in any state action of retribution toward him based on the refusal.
The legislation protects churches from being forced to involve themselves in same-sex ceremonies as well and is considered the least controversial among numerous religious liberty bills currently under consideration in Georgia, a report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution said.
While the Pastor Protection Act had strong support, it faced criticism from some Republicans who said it didn’t go far enough, the report said, but House Speaker David Ralston disagreed, calling it “regrettable” there wasn’t more acceptance of focusing on common ground.
“This bill shows that starting where there is agreement and mutual trust can be much more productive rather than spinning into what seems to be a bottomless chasm,” Ralston said.
Passage of the bill comes just one day after the Reverend Franklin Graham held a rally on the Georgia State Capitol steps advocating for Christians to become involved and have a voice in the political process.
Preaching against sin and specifically naming abortion and same-sex “marriage,” the evangelist and son of Reverend Billy Graham appeared before thousands, who came out for his Decision America Tour 2016. His rally came one day after, according to TIME, some 200 LGBT advocates had demonstrated at the capitol against the Pastor Protection Act and the other proposed religious liberty bills.