On December 12th after their committee meeting, members of the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee smiled, took pictures with each other, and exchanged collegial pleasantries. After they left the room, any realistic chance of passing HB36, also known as the “Pastor Protection Act,” left with them.

Rep. Nino Vitale claimed his bill gave pastors the right to deny to marry couples for religious reasons without worrying about a lawsuit, even though clergy already have that right via the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I of Ohio’s Constitution. The bill goes further, and would have allowed for previously illegal forms of discrimination, such as allowing a wedding venue owned by a religious society (such as a Knights of Columbus hall) to decline to rent to an existing protected class in Ohio, such as an interracial couple or an immigrant couple.

“Marriage is a civil right, but for many, it’s also a sacred rite. We do not want any clergy to be forced to marry any couples that do not adhere to their spiritual practice. It’s important to know that clergy already have that right––they can pick and choose who they marry today, right now, as they should be able to do,” said Alana Jochum, Executive Director, Equality Ohio. “I’m relieved that the Ohio Senate realized that this misnamed bill has a tricky provision that could cause far-reaching implications beyond any protections for clergy that it fails to offer.”

“The Columbus Chamber was proud to lead the way as the first Chamber to join Ohio Business Competes, a coalition in support of adding statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, with the goals of making Ohio more economically competitive and inclusive,” said Holly Gross, Vice President of The Columbus Chamber. “This legislation would have sent the wrong message to businesses and workers, and could pave the way for future economic losses. I’m happy Ohio’s legislators made the right choice.”

Via Press Release