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Mitch Perry Report for 1.27.16 – “Pastor Protection Act” moves through state Senate

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Observers of the state Legislature in Tallahassee will recall the backlash that ensued after the Florida House passed a measure last year that effectively codified existing law that same-sex couples could adopt. The bill, sponsored by Miami Beach Democrat Dave Richardson, ultimately made it through the Senate, but not before there was another measure sponsored in the House by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur that would allow private adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples if they felt it compromised their faith or morals.

That bill never made it through the Senate.

Flash forward to Tuesday when for more than an hour clergy and other religious officials spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean‘s Pastor Protection Act, which would protect clergy and churches from prosecutions and lawsuits if they reject same-sex couples wanting to marry.

Like a debate last fall regarding a charter amendment proposal in Hillsborough County that would put the inclusion of the LGBT community into a human rights ordinance up for a popular vote, the anti-gay rhetoric got a bit nasty at times.

Why can’t people disagree without resorting to such dialogue?

To be fair, many spoke in support of the bill without criticizing “homosexuals” (the pastors preferred word choice).

Carlos Guillermo Smith from Equality Florida said his organization would defend any clergy member or house of worship that was sued, but said that wouldn’t happen because of existing constitutional protections.

The measure passed 7-3 in committee, and appears destined to get through the Legislature. But will another measure that is the top of the agenda for the LGBT community this winter?

That would be the bill to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression included into a statewide human rights ordinance. It was heard in the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, but time ran out before lawmakers could vote on the issue.

In a potential indication of where he is on the issue, Trilby Sen. Wilton Simpson said the proposal was calling for “special rights.”

In other news …

Marco Rubio received the endorsement of former New York Gov. George Pataki on Tuesday. Rumor has it that at one point last year, Pataki was competing against the Florida Senator for the GOP presidential nomination.

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While Rubio continues to deny that anything should be done about fighting climate change, 15 South Florida mayors concerned about sea level rise would beg to differ. And they want to speak to Rubio about the issue soon.

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Bob Buckhorn supports TPP — the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that is.

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Activist Aaron Darr will not run for office in Largo later this year. The 24-year-old Democrat says that he’s good with backing away and supporting a new candidate who has entered the City Commission race.

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Eric Lynn is not that impressed by Charlie Crist’s initial fundraising showing. The former governor took in half-million dollars in his first three months as a candidate in the CD 13 race.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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