BY KAYLEE DUFF
(Images courtesy of Equality Ohio)
Ohio House Bill 36, the Ohio Pastors “Protection” Act, is receiving three Senate hearings on November 27, 28 and 29.
The proposed bill has already passed through the House. LGBTQ+ organizations and leaders around Ohio are fighting against HB36 from becoming law.
HB36 was introduced as a way to protect the clergy from lawsuits. The bill’s short title reads: “Allow minister not to solemnize marriages contrary to beliefs.” If enacted into law, the Pastor Protection Act would negatively affect all Ohio citizens, not just LGBTQ+ identified people.
The long title and summary of the proposed bill reads:
To amend sections 3101.08 and 4112.02 of the Revised Code to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not required to solemnize a marriage and a religious society is not required to allow any building or property of the religious society to be used to host a marriage ceremony if the marriage does not conform to the ordained or licensed minister’s or religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs, to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not subject to civil or criminal liability for such a denial, to provide that the state and political subdivisions may not penalize or withhold benefits to an ordained or licensed minister or religious society for such a denial, and to make changes to the law governing unlawful discriminatory practices.
However, it’s important to remember that the Pastor Protection Act is unnecessary and would only open the door for discrimination against Ohio’s diverse and varied communities. Religious leaders’ right to decline performing marriage ceremonies is already protected under law and has not been threatened. That right is currently protected by both the First Amendment and Article I of Ohio’s Constitution.
The bill is receiving three hearings in front of the Ohio Senate this week. All hearings will occur at the North Hearing Room in the Ohio Statehouse:
- Tuesday, November 27, 10:15 a.m. — 1st hearing; sponsor testimony
- Wednesday, November 28, 2:30 p.m. (After Session) — 2nd hearing; proponent testimony
Thursday, November 29, 9:30 a.m. — 3rd hearing; opponent/interested party testimony & possible vote
Equality Ohio, one of the organizations leading the pushback against HB36, asks Ohioans to consider the following points:
- HB36’s champions say it’s about protecting clergy from lawsuits, but that’s never been a legal threat. Instead, the bill erodes civil rights protections Ohioans decided were necessary decades ago based on race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age or ancestry. The way Ohio’s laws are currently written, same-sex couples aren’t even affected by this bill — it’s everyone else.
- Jobs are leaving Ohio, including a GM Plant in Lordstown — the most pressing issue on Ohio lawmakers should not be gutting civil rights.
- HB36 began its life as an insult to same-sex couples, claiming to give clergy authority they already had — to decline to marry a couple that doesn’t align with their faith. There was also a threat that the bill could undo certain civil rights protections for all couples, not just LGBTQ+ couples. That threat was real. It passed the Ohio House as a vehicle which explicitly undermines Ohio’s civil rights laws, and not just for same-sex couples.
- Ohio’s civil rights laws were hard earned and have been in place for decades. In an attempt to further marginalize same-sex couples, some Ohio lawmakers are tampering with Ohio’s civil rights legacy.
- This bill says that on your wedding day, some reception venues or event spaces can have a whites-only or a straights-only policy.
- HB36 sabotages Ohio’s existing civil rights laws. It allows for certain businesses to discriminate against anybody on their wedding day, for any reason, such as race, military status and more.
So here’s what you can do: let your legislators know how strongly you oppose HB36. Equality Ohio has made this easy; follow this link and send an email with your thoughts on the bill to the entire committee. There’s an option to populate the email with a personalized message, or a pre-written response opposing the bill.
You can also volunteer to testify against the bill at the third hearing on Thursday, November 29. If you’re interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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