Georgia legislature advances anti-marriage ‘Pastor Protection Act’

A same-sex marriage supporter shows off buttons supporting marriage equality.

A same-sex marriage supporter shows off buttons supporting marriage equality.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia law doesn’t require religious officials to perform same-sex marriages, and a bill making that clear is moving through the Georgia House.

The “Pastor Protection Act,” the first of several proposed religious exemptions for opponents of the marriages to gain any traction this year, won approval Thursday in a House Judiciary subcommittee and was sent on for a full committee vote.

At least 8 bills filed by lawmakers would grant a variety of exemptions for people who object to same-sex marriage — including one measure allowing private business to refuse participation in a same-sex wedding ceremony.

House Speaker David Ralston, the chamber’s top Republican, has thrown his support behind the Pastor Protection Act, recently calling it an opportunity to “come together” on a heated issue that has divided Republicans.

Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Dawsonville Republican sponsoring the bill, acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court‘s recent decision effectively legalizing gay marriage didn’t force religious officials to perform those ceremonies. He said the bill would reassure faith leaders.

“It should be very clear they’re protected criminally and civilly from making decisions and then being sued for those decisions,” Tanner said.

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