Senate merges 2 bills protecting same-sex marriage objectors


ATLANTA (AP) – A bill headed toward a vote in the Georgia Senate would allow faith-based organizations to refuse services to same-sex couples without government penalties, including loss of taxpayer funding.

The powerful Senate Rules committee Tuesday added that language to a bill unanimously approved by the House last week allowing religious officials to decline performing same-sex marriage ceremonies. The move combines two of the eight bills introduced this year seeking legal exemptions for opponents of same-sex marriage after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively legalized the unions.

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The bill protecting pastors received little opposition on its way to a House vote. But gay-rights advocates have harshly criticized the broader Senate bill, known as the “First Amendment Defense Act,” that shields adoption agencies, schools and other organizations from penalties for opposing same-sex marriage.