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Texas House passes bill to protect pastors who refuse to marry gay couples

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A bill clarifying that clergy members have the right to refuse to conduct marriages violating their beliefs tentatively passed the Texas House 141-2 Thursday.

Critics argue the so-called Pastor Protection Act, Senate Bill 2065, is aimed at making it tougher for same-sex couples to marry in Texas, should the U.S. Supreme Court legalize gay marriages. The bill’s author, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, has said the bill is about protecting pastors “who have a strong religious belief ” against same-sex marriage.

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The bill passed out of the Senate earlier this month on a 21-10 vote, with one Democrat joining Republicans in support.

Yet most Democrats in the Texas House voted for the bill, and made it clear Thursday that they believe the measure protects religious institutions supporting gay marriage as well as those that oppose it.

“I truly believe that there is space for LGBT justice and religious freedom and this, I feel, is the space for that,” said state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, who has called herself the only openly pan-sexual elected official in the nation.

State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said in a speech supporting the bill that she will one day marry her longtime lesbian partner in Texas. Pastors that don’t support their union shouldn’t worry about her trying to get them to conduct the ceremony, she said. SB 2065, Israel argued, would ensure that a clergy member that wants to support the ceremony can.

“This Roman Catholic urges you to vote yes,” Israel said.

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Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Equality Texas withdrew its opposition to the measure and encouraged House Democrats to vote for it.

The bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, described the bill as “a shield and not a sword” and noted that it did not change “the role of state government in issuing marriage licenses.”

State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, said the bill was about protecting pastors who feared what may happen in the future related to marriage and the law.

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“Maybe pastors won’t be sued but we need some protection in case they are,” Harless said.

The two “no” votes on the bill were state Reps. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Armando Walle, D-Houston.

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During the House debate, Canales asked Sanford about what situation the bill was trying to prevent, as he was not aware of a situation in which a religious clergy member has been prosecuted for not marrying a couple.

“I don’t think you should force somebody to marry anybody,” Canales said.

If the bill receives final approval in the House, it will go to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Abbott has indicated he will sign the bill.

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By Aman Batheja, The Texas Tribune


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Trump ‘just wants this problem to go away’: President desperate to get coronavirus ‘off his plate’

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President Donald Trump is desperate for the coronavirus problem to go away, and he doesn't exactly care how it happens.

According to New York Times reporter Annie Karni, sources are telling her that the biggest concern Trump has is more about the markets than the deaths of Americans from the virus.

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Seth Meyers: You know Trump isn’t the chief law enforcement officer because he couldn’t pass the physical

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"Late Night" host Seth Meyers warned that the United States is sliding into authoritarianism under President Donald Trump.

Sounding the alarm Wednesday evening, Meyers cited reports that Trump was making lists of disloyal people, purging them from their jobs, hiring unqualified cronies in top posts, and claiming he has the right to interfere in criminal cases.

While speaking to the press last week, Trump even announced that he's allowed to be involved in all criminal cases because he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. It's actually a title used for the attorney general.

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Conservative columnist nails the infectious diseases the Trump White House is suffering from

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On Wednesday, conservative columnist Max Boot revealed the "diseases" at the heart of President Donald Trump's administration that are weakening their capacity to respond to the very real disease threat from coronavirus.

Simply put: Fevered nationalism, hatred of the civil service, and a pathological desire to erase the legacy of President Barack Obama.

"Covid-19 has already infected more than 80,000 people in 37 countries, causing more than 2,600 deaths, and experts doubt it will slow in the spring," wrote Boot. "That a virus that started in China could have a bad impact on the United States should be no surprise: Diseases don’t respect borders any more than terrorists or trade flows do. Transnational threats require transnational solutions. To cite but one example, many of the medicines and medical supplies that Americans need, including N95 face masks, come from China."

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