- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The “pastor protection act” aimed at preventing lawsuits against churches or preachers for refusing to perform same-sex marriages is ready for a vote on the Florida House floor, where it’s likely to pass.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure after lengthy debate Thursday. That was the final committee stop for the bill in the House. It still faces two more Senate committee hearings before it can go to a floor vote there.

The bill passed on a near-party line vote in the committee. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee was the only Democrat voting in favor.

Nearly 40 pastors and gay rights activists spoke on the bill. Most of the clergymen favored the bill but several representing large, mainstream denominations opposed it, saying it’s not needed.

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