On a 3-2 vote a Senate committee voted against the Pastor
Protection Act, which would have provided protection for religious organizations
if they refuse to perform a same sex marriage. Bossier City Representative Mike
Johnson says this bill is NOT as expansive as some of the religious freedom
bills passed in other states.
“This bill seeks to strike a balance in a careful manner on a very narrow issue pertaining to churches only, and that’s really all the bill does. It’s very short and limited in its scope,” Johnson said.
But New Orleans Senator JP Morrell says pastors and clergy members are already protected under the Religious Freedom Protection Act. He says he doesn’t see a need for this bill.
“I’m not aware of a case in this state where clergy were required to marry a gay couple. So honestly, I think your bill is kind of a solution in search of a problem,” Morrell said.
But Johnson says religious freedom protection is becoming more and more narrow. He says the Obama Administration even said that each state will have to figure out how to balance protecting people’s rights once gay marriage was legalized.
“As the landscape shits, there’s a need to further define in these specific instances what the state’s position is on some of these issues,” Johnson said.
This bill won easy approval in the House on an 80-18 vote, but New Orleans Senators Karen Peterson and Morrell fought against this legislation in Senate Judiciary B. It received opposition from LGBT groups and Morrell expressed their concerns during debate in committee today.
“Regardless of how you feel about something, you should never put discrimination in law, and I feel like, when I look at your bill, we’re putting discrimination in law,” Morrell said.