By MATTHEW CLARK
The Florida legislature elected to table anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community on Tuesday, but the Senate Judiciary Committee managed to approve the Pastor Protection Act, a bill designed to protect clergy and religious institutions from litigation for turning away gay couples, after an hour of debate.
“This is not about individual choice, it’s about divine design that we are forced to reinforce,” Senior Pastor Gilberto Rodriguez of Templo Elias said of the bill’s necessity to the Miami Herald.
Critics argue that such protections are already written into the U.S. Constitution.
However, neither the state nor federal level protects against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, something that the Competitive Workforce Act aims to fix with bipartisan support.
The Herald reports that LGBT rights activists came to Tallahassee to hear the bill’s first reading in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was tabled and promised a reading at the panel’s next meeting by chairman Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.
The state House Judiciary Committee will head the Pastor Protection Act on Thursday but hasn’t agreed to hear the anti-discrimination measure.
Last year a religious freedom bill was also introduced in the Florida House. If passed, it would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by adoption agencies and health-related services, among other entities