TN “Pastor Protection Act” proposed after SCOTUS ruling

A bill still in the works in Tennessee would give pastors the right to choose whether to perform same-sex marriages.

On Friday the United State Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states.

On the same day of that decision, two Tennessee state law makers announced plans to propose a bill that would give pastors the right to choose whether to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

Like many religious leaders, Boone Trail Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dwight Jenkins in Johnson City was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriages.

“There’s a fundamental redefinition of marriage taking place and it’s different than any other issue we’ve dealt with before,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins said he knows it’s his first amendment right to choose not to marry same-sex couples.

But sponsors of the Pastor Protection Act, a bill that’s still in the works in Tennessee, claim pastor’s like Jenkins need additional legal protection.

“In general people have the right when you’re in private business to serve a customer or to not serve them,” said Attorney Jerry Fabus.

Fabus said technically the law is not necessary, but if gay and lesbian people are legally categorized in a protected class like race or gender, Fabus said there will be future complications.

“If sexual preference falls into that same category… then if they refuse to treat people or to serve people that fall into that protected class then they will lose federal funding and churches could lose their tax exempt status,” said Fabus.

Pride Community Center of the Tri-Cities Directors John Baker and Kenn Lyon told News Channel 11, most people in the LGBT community do not want to go where they are not welcome.

“Most gay couples will not come to a pastor if they know that they object to them being married. In a subtle way, it is discrimination,” said Baker.

Baker said it’s a last ditch effort to exclude the LGBT community from marriage.

“It’s divisive, it’s separation, it’s judgmental and it’s trying to keep gay and lesbian people in a second class position in society,” said Lyon.

Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey recently told us that he supports the Pastor Protection Act. He told us the act is much needed.

Baker and Lyon said that the proposed bill is a scare tactic.

The Pastor Protection Act would also allow pastors to stop same-sex couples from getting married in their churches.

Copyright 2015 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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