House committee approves Ohio religious liberty bill, future passage unclear

A controversial bill that opponents say would encourage discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ohioans cleared a House panel this week.

But the “Ohio Pastor Protection Act” isn’t at the top of Statehouse leaders’ agendas for its last scheduled week of the lame-duck session, and it’s unclear whether the measure will even get a full House vote.

Under House Bill 286, licensed ministers would be immune from criminal and civil liability for refusing to solemnize a marriage or allow church property to be used for marriage ceremonies that do not conform with their religious beliefs.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Nino Vitale, said the legislation is needed to “stop a war in Ohio” after a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage. Two dozen pastors testified earlier this year in support of the bill.

Opponents, including other pastors and LGBT advocates, say the bill is unnecessary because those actions are already protected under the First Amendment. Instead, they say, the bill sends an anti-LGBT message.

If the bill cleared the House, it would have to be fast-tracked through a Senate committee and floor vote within a couple days, a tall order for a busy time of year.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said this year that pastors already have constitutional religious liberty protections. And Gov. John Kasich, as a presidential candidate, has been hesitant to support new laws protecting religious liberty.

Click here to read more of this story.

About Marion Online News

Marion Online is owned and operated by the (somewhat) fine people at Neighborhood Image, a local website design and hosting company. We know, a locally owned media company, it's crazy. To send us information, click on Contact Us in the menu.