Let's be clear: No member of the clergy in Texas has been forced to marry a couple they didn't want to marry, nor will they be in the future. Churches are not a public accommodation like, say, a pizza restaurant run by opportunistic bigots in Indiana . Even if the Supreme Court decides this summer that same-sex marriage should be legal nationwide, East Texas foot-washers, South Texas Catholics and Dallas Mormons will not have to bear witness to the horror of two loving people getting married if they don't wish to do so. As Eric Nicholson wrote last month, "[the First Amendment] protects all manner of vile and retrograde beliefs."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who used to be Texas Attorney General, apparently disagrees — or, more accurately, probably doesn't but is beholden to the holders of fringe beliefs who helped him get elected. Abbott held a fancy signing ceremony Thursday for the "Pastor Protection Act," which needlessly affirms Texas clergy's right not to be forced to perform a marriage.
“Freedom of religion is the most sacred of our rights and our freedom to worship is secured by the Constitution,” Abbott said. “Religious leaders in the State of Texas must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that religious freedom is beyond the reach of government or coercion by the courts. Today I am proud to sign into law SB 2065 – the Pastor Protection Act – to ensure that clergy in Texas cannot be forced to violate their religious beliefs.”
The bill is so useless that lefty groups like the Texas Freedom Network didn't even oppose the bill; it merely restates existing law, they said. And yet, there was Abbott Thursday, flanked by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, making out like he'd struck a tremendous blow against the mounting, rainbow-colored tide.
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Paxton said later that the bill was only a first step.
“But to be clear, [the Pastor Protection Act] is not enough. We now have much more work to do to ensure that all Texans can practice their faith and, among other things, recognize traditional marriage without being punished, harassed or discriminated against for their beliefs," Paxton said.
The underlying assumption made by both Abbott and Paxton, that same-sex couples would actually want to get married by someone who thinks they're an abomination, was thoroughly knocked down earlier this year by state Representative Celia Israel from Austin, who is gay.
"Some fine day, my partner and I are going to be able to get married in the great state of Texas,” she said. “When that day comes, rest assured to those pastors and preachers who take a more literal interpretation of the Bible, my partner and I of 20 years will not be going to them to bless our union. I will be going to someone who loves and respects us for who we are," she said before voting for the meaningless bill.