So-called pastor protection bill heads, sigh, to Governor Scott's desk

Silly season is clearly upon us. Nationally, the race for the presidency is captivating, much in the way a cat video captures our attention.

Apparently not one to feel left out of the madness, the Florida legislature, known for its own ludicrous nonsense at times, passed a controversial bill dubbed the ‘Pastor Protection Act’ Thursday, which means the bill will soon be headed for the governor's desk (ack!). Supposedly aimed at protecting clergy members from performing same sex marriages against their religious beliefs, the bill was supported Thursday in the State Senate 23-15, according to News Service of Florida.

Even though the vast majority of Americans and the U.S. Supreme Court believe people should be able to marry whomever the hell they want, a few clergy folk, it appears, are terrified that if they refuse to officiate on Susan and Claire’s happy day of matrimony they could face a legal backlash (not that they should be terrified; seriously). One would think having the lord almighty on your side is protection enough but, ya know, just in case, the ‘Pastor Protection Act' seeks to protect churches, their employees and pastors from facing lawsuits for discrimination (again, not that they would actually face such lawsuits).

Opponents of the bill, however, believe this sends the state down a slippery slope in that it could bring back old stigmas about marriages previously viewed as nontraditional, such as interracial marriages or those involving at least one divorcee.

"I'm afraid it might turn the clock back," said Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat and veteran of the civil-rights movement.

Such a bill would no doubt win the support of someone like Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk famously jailed last year for refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses.

But Margate Democratic Senator Jeremy Ring said he sees the bill as completely anti business, given that such legislation, however impotent and unneeded, sends a signal to businesses and potential employees that Florida is a small-minded place where diversity is not welcome.

“When other states have gone down this path, there has been a significant backlash from the business community,” he said.

Perhaps in a move to attract evangelicals and climate change deniers as tourists to the state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, the bill's sponsor, apparently sees things differently.

“People thinking of moving to Florida would appreciate its low taxes, warm weather and, with the bill, its celebration of religious freedom," he said. "So I think the business community is going to embrace it so well."

In a move sure to whip up the religious right into a snake-handing, talking-in-tongues frenzy he added: "Discrimination goes two ways. That's what these pastors and … churches are scared to death of, this new environment where they can be discriminated against."

Which, again, is not a current occupational hazard for members of the clergy, never was and never will be.

Party on, radical right wing of the Florida legislature.

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