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Florida Churches changing bylaws after gay marriage ruling

Prophecy News Watch reports:

Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible allows only marriage between one man and one woman.

Although there have been lawsuits against wedding industry businesses that refuse to serve gay couples, attorneys promoting the bylaw changes say they don’t know of any lawsuits against churches.

Critics say the changes are unnecessary, but some churches fear that it’s only a matter of time before one of them is sued.

“I thought marriage was always between one man and one woman, but the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said no,” said Gregory S. Erwin, an attorney for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, an association of Southern Baptist churches and one several groups advising churches to change their bylaws. “I think it’s better to be prepared because the law is changing. America is changing.”

In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. A second decision was more technical but essentially ushered in legal gay marriage in California.

Kevin Snider is an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues. His organization released a model marriage policy a few years ago in response to a statewide gay marriage fight in California. Snider said some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Dean Inserra, head pastor of the 1,000-member City Church Tallahassee, based in Florida, said he does not want to be alarmist, but his church is looking into how best to address the issue.

Inserra said he already has had to say no to gay friends who wanted him to perform a wedding ceremony.

“We have some gay couples that attend our church. What happens when they ask us to do their wedding?” Inserra said. “What happens when we say no? Is it going to be treated like a civil rights thing?”

Critics, including some gay Christian leaders, argue that the changes amount to a solution looking for a problem.

“They seem to be under the impression that there is this huge movement with the goal of forcing them to perform ceremonies that violate their freedom of religion,” said Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network, a nonprofit that provides support for gay Christians and their friends and families and encourages churches to be more welcoming.

“If anyone tried to force a church to perform a ceremony against their will, I would be the first person to stand up in that church’s defense.”

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia now recognize gay marriage.

Some Christian denominations, such as the United Church of Christ, accept gay marriage. The Episcopal Church recently approved a blessing for same-sex couples, but each bishop must decide whether to allow the ceremony in his or her local diocese.

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Family Group Vows to Remind Voters Of Consequences of 296

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA— Florida Family Action has released documentation today gathered from the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office displaying how the citizens of Jacksonville voted on Florida’s Marriage Protection Amendment in 2008. The report is broken out by each Council Member’s district, showing both the precise number and percentage of voter’s voting for marriage and against the creation of new gay rights on this issue.

Not a single district had less than 59% voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Amendment, which amended the Florida Constitution to include language to prohibit “no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Percentages range from district to district, all showing a decided majority in favor of maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. Districts 1, 8, 10 and 11 had more than 70% voting in favor of the Amendment, with 78.9% of District 12’s citizens voting Yes.

John Stemberger President of Florida Family Action released the following statement today:

Jacksonville residents will not be fooled about the real intent and purpose of this ordinance. Full legalized gay marriage is the goal of its proponents. 2012-296 is just a stepping stone to that end. In every state where traditional marriage laws were overturned to allow homosexual marriages, whether by judicial decision or state legislature, proponents of gay marriage cited the collective scheme of non discrimination ordinances that created new protected classes like the one proposed in 296. Local ordinances of this nature have been consistently used as legal precedent for introducing gay marriage. Even state constitutional amendments supporting traditional marriage, like California’s recently overturned amendment, are not safe. We pledge to remind the constituents in every Council Member’s district who votes for this bill on August 15 about its true effect. It would be our hope that members of the Council will remember both the commanding vote margin in this research and the recent record lines outside of Chick fil A stores in Jacksonville this past week in support of natural marriage.

This data has been released for the information of the City Council while they are considering Ordinance 2012-296, a bill that would amend several City ordinances to add “sexual orientation, and perhaps gender identity or expression” to the listings of personal conditions or statuses which cannot be discriminated against. The ordinances proposed to be amended include Public Accommodations, Fair Housing, and others.

Voting yes on 296 would be decidedly against the will of the citizens of Jacksonville, who overwhelmingly voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage when given the chance. The City Council may wish to consider the way their constituents voted when this similar issue was presented directly to them.