- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A bill that aims to protect preachers and churches from being sued for refusing to perform same-sex marriages is headed to a vote on the Florida Senate floor.

The bill passed its last Senate committee hearing on a party-line vote Wednesday. A companion measure in the House has already passed its committees and is awaiting a floor vote.

Dozens of pastors including many evangelicals showed up at the committee hearing to say the bill is needed to protect their religious freedom. They said they have nothing against gay people but don’t want to marry them.

But other pastors opposed the bill along with gay rights activists. They said the bill is politically motivated, divisive and unnecessary because religious freedoms are already protected in the U.S. Constitution and state law.

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