October 19, 2015
During committee meetings leading up to the January 12 start of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, HB 43 by Rep. Plakon (R-Longwood) was passed by the Civil Justice Subcommittee (9-4). The bill provides that churches or religious organizations, or individuals employed by these entities, including clergy, may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, facilities or goods for related purposes if such action would violate sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill protects these entities and individuals from certain legal actions, penalties, or government sanctions.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision that redefined marriage to accommodate same sex couples, religious freedom certainly requires protection in the face of so many uncertainties under the law. Layers of protection in law can be helpful, especially if they stave off frivolous litigation. The FCCB is hopeful that the Florida legislature will enact robust protections for religious and moral convictions related to marriage. Such protections especially need to be defined for individuals and agencies licensed by the State of Florida to provide various services, such as foster care and adoption.
HB 43 will be heard next by the House Judiciary Committee. Companion measure SB 110 by Senator Bean (R-Jacksonville) waits to be heard by its first committee of reference.