Texas House approves bill protecting clergy from officiating same-sex unions

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Updated: 4:00 p.m. CDT

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas state House is has given preliminary approval to a GOP-backed bill allowing clergy members to refuse to perform marriages that violate their beliefs.

The measure, which sailed through the Senate passed in the House Thursday by a vote of 141 to 2.

Supporters say the bill protects religious freedoms, but Democrats say existing constitutional guarantees separating church and state already allow houses of worship to set their own religious policies regarding marriage ceremonies.

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The language of the Texas proposal is less hot-button. But a divisive bill prohibiting government employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples died last week, after Democratic stall tactics delayed it.

It’s possible that could return as an amendment to the clergy bill.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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