Okla. Senate approves bill allowing clergy to refuse to officiate gay weddings

Oklahoma state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma state capitol in Oklahoma City. Jimmy Emerson

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation that protects members of the clergy who refuse to solemnize a same-sex marriage has been approved by the Oklahoma Senate.

Oklahoma state capitol in Oklahoma City.Jimmy Emerson

Oklahoma state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Senators voted 39-6 for the measure Wednesday and sent it to the House, which has passed a similar bill.

The measure by Republican Sen. Dan Newberry of Tulsa protects clergy members and others authorized to perform marriage ceremonies from being required to perform those duties if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

It would also shield churches from being required to participate in ceremonies that might conflict for religious reasons.

Rep. David Brumbaugh, the bill’s sponsor in the House, says pastors in his district requested the bill after a federal court last year struck down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Critics said the bill was a waste of lawmakers time because religious institutions are already protected under federal law from having to solemnize same-sex unions, and that no religion has ever been forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriages.

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The measure is one of several that gay rights groups say targets the LGBT community.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma House has approved legislation that shifts the issuance of marriage licenses from the state to members of the clergy.

Last week, a House committee advanced a bill that would protect the practice of gay-to-straight conversion therapy. A third bill would mandate that judges or court clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples would lose their jobs.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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