Georgia House passes ‘Pastor Protection Act’

Clergy could not be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony under legislation unanimously approved in the Georgia House on Thursday.

House Bill 757, known as the Pastor Protect Act, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, passed 161-0 and now goes to the Senate.

The bill, supported by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, moved easily after several lawmakers gave impassioned, Scripture-based speeches on its behalf. Ralston also made a rare appearance on the floor of the House to support it.

Ralston pushed back on criticisms from fellow Republicans that his bill does not go far enough. Other lawmakers are proposing more extensive religious liberty bills. The House speaker said he wanted to find common ground.

“I sometimes find myself worrying that the idea of focusing on that which unites us instead of that which divides us is becoming old fashioned and dated,” Ralston said. “And I think that’s regrettable.”

The bill, he said, addresses real concerns of voters who worried that the legalization of same-sex marriage would have adverse effects.

“This bill shows that starting where there is agreement and mutual trust can be much more productive rather than spinning into what seems to be a bottomless chasm,” he said.