After passage in the Ohio House in
June, the Senate is now considering a bill that would protect clergy
opposed to marrying gay and lesbian couples.
State Rep. Nino Vitale's Pastor
Protection Act would ensure that clergy can't be forced into
performing ceremonies they're opposed to based on their faith. The
bill's current language only applies to minister and religious
Supporters say such a law is needed to
ensure that pastors opposed to same-sex marriage are not forced into
marrying gay couples. Opponents say the bill is unnecessary and
undermines marriage equality.
The Rev. Tim Throckmorton, pastor at
Crossroads Church in Circleville and a board member of Citizens for
Community Values (CCV), the conservative group that put Ohio's gay
marriage ban on the 2004 ballot, told Ohio
Public Radio in June that he worries about being sued for turning
away gay couples who wish to wed.
“If they would take that the wrong
way, get offended, perhaps they could issue a lawsuit or a lawsuit
could come toward our church or toward me, and then as it works its
way up the court – quite honestly I'm concerned because I don't
feel the court made a good decision here,” he said, a reference to
the Supreme Court ruling that struck down state bans limiting
marriage to heterosexual couples.
Ohio Equality, Ohio's largest LGBT
rights advocate, called the bill an “insult” to LGBT Ohioans.
Ohio Equality Executive Director Alana
Jochum said in a statement that the bill “threatens to weaken
certain civil rights protections for all couples, not just LGBTQ
“The Pastor Protection Act
expressly undermines the protections Ohioans have had for decades
with regards to race, color, religion, sex, military status, national
origin, disability, age and ancestry,” Jochum said. “In an
attempt to marginalize same-sex couples, some Ohio legislators are
considering undermining the state's entire civil rights legacy.”
The Rev. Tim Ahrens, the pastor at
First Congregation Church, United Church of Christ in downtown
Columbus, previously called the legislation unnecessary.
“There will be no lawsuit,” said
Ahrens, a marriage equality supporter. “Someone who is gay will
not go to a pastor who does not want to marry them. That's just