By RAY HENRYAssociated Press
ATLANTA (AP) - A Republican wants to explicitly allow clergy in Georgia to refuse to perform gay marriages - a protection they already enjoy under the U.S. Constitution.
House Speaker David Ralston earlier this month said he will support the Pastor's Protection Act. It would make clear that clergy do not have to marry same-sex couples.
Georgia's state constitution forbade gay marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court recently legalized it.
Lawyers say the First Amendment already keeps the government from forcing clergy members to celebrate weddings that violate the celebrant's religious beliefs.
Although legally toothless, the proposal could be seen as a political concession from Ralston to social conservatives.
The Republican leader was instrumental this year in blocking passage of a separate bill that gay rights groups feared could allow public accommodations discrimination.
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