Texas Senate OKs bill allowing clergy to refuse same-sex marriages

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate has voted overwhelmingly to allow clergy members to refuse performing marriages that violate their religious beliefs.

Monday’s vote comes as top Republicans move to further shield Texas from a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to wed.

The bill requires a final Senate vote before heading to the state House.

Democrats quickly pointed out that existing constitutional guarantees separating church and state already allow houses of worship to set their own religious policies regarding marriage ceremonies.

The measure raises some of the same issues as “religious objections” proposals that sparked strong criticism nationally after being approved in Indiana and Arkansas.

The Texas proposal is less divisive, largely restating existing law.

Still, it follows the nation’s high court hearing arguments about the constitutionality of gay marriage.

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On Tuesday, the state House is scheduled to vote on two hot-button anti-LGBT measures. The most-watched proposal (HB 4105) would bar state, county and local officials from issuing or enforcing a same-sex marriage license, and prevent recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.

The other is a religious objections bill that could give Texas a taste of the uproar similar measures caused when legislatures approved them recently in Indiana and Arkansas.

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