Abbott’s signing of the bill comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to decide whether states can continue banning same-sex marriage. Outside the governor’s mansion, Abbott said this legislation prevents pastors from being required to violate their religious convictions.
“Whether or not pastors would be protected was an issue that came up during the Supreme Court argument. We wanted to put at rest whether there was any uncertainty whatsoever, so that these pastors can know that no law, no court decision, can coerce them to violate their First Amendment right,” Abbott stated.
Abbott, who served as the state’s attorney general, said the Texas law would apply, even if the Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban same-sex marriages.
“No decision by the United States Supreme Court can trump the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Abbott affirmed.
During the last days of the legislative session the bill won overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers.
Abbott was joined at the bill signing by dozens of ministers from many different religious denominations. That included Kerrville Pastor Greg Young, who supported the bill because he said he had seen first-hand, how ministers are pressured because of their stand against same-sex marriage. “There are pastors that have been approached in states where this has been legalized and have had threats made against them with regard to it. I had vehicles that were destroyed simply because I put a sticker on them that said I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Young.
Not every minister in Texas shares Young’s point of view. Rev. Meg Barnhouse is the Sr. Pastor at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin. She called the bill signing political theater. “Because I, as a pastor, have said no to marrying several couples in the past for one reason or another, and any minister has the right to say no in terms of who they want to perform a wedding for, really any minister already has those protections,” Barnhouse pointed out.
Barnhouse said that before she marries any couple, gay or straight, she meets with them several times to thoroughly examine their commitment to each other and God. “I try to figure out the relationship, I try to ask them how they met, I ask them why they would want to get married, because it’s not automatic. So there’s a lot that goes into decision to actually get married legally and I’m curious to know what that is,” Barnhouse explained.
The law wouldn’t go into effect until September 1.