Written by Don Byrd
A law designed to protect clergy from public accommodation laws, which passed the Ohio House earlier this year, has finally made it to the Ohio Senate floor for consideration. House Bill 36, the “Ohio Pastor Protection Act,” bars any penalty directed at ministers or “religious societies” for refusing to perform or host a marriage ceremony that conflicts with their religious beliefs. But is it necessary?
As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, one problem with this idea is that current law already protects clergy in this way.
Opponents have said the bill is unnecessary because religious officials are already protected under the First Amendment. They also claim that allowing churches to refuse gay marriages to be performed on their property would be legalized discrimination against same-sex couples.
Even some supporters of the Ohio Pastor Protection Act have questioned whether the bill’s protections are still needed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling [in Masterpiece Cakeship} in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the case, stated that clergy who object to gay marriage “could not be compelled to perform” one without violating their constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Numerous states currently have similar legislation pending. If Ohio’s Senate approves the measure, it would go to the Governor for his signature.