'Pastor Protection Act' gets Florida Gov. Rick Scott's approval

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has finally approved the "Pastor Protection Act", which aims to protect clergy members if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the "Pastor Protection Act," the measure (HB 43) which was filed by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood). The filing of the bill comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling last year which legalized same-sex marriage, Fox 35 Orlando reports.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses an economic summit in Orlando, Florida, June 2, 2015. | REUTERS / Steve Nesius

Opponents of the "Pastor Protection Act" argue that clergy members who turn down same-sex marriages are already protected by the First Amendment. They also challenged the bill's supporters to cite cases where religious organizations have been punished for refusing to cater to gay and lesbian weddings.

In addition, the opponents said the controversial bill could also lead to pastors refusing to marry divorced people or interracial couples, the report relays.

Supporters, on the other hand, explained that there are still no lawsuits because the Supreme Court's ruling has only taken effect last year.

Pastor Brant Copeland of the First Presbyterian church in Tallahassee is one of those who objected to the bill. He said he does not need it anymore because the bill of rights already protects him if he refuses to perform a ceremony which goes against his religious belief, WSFU relays.

"Well, the Pastor Protection Act, so called, is mislabeled as well. In my opinion, I don't need protection," said Copeland. "I have the bill of rights which protects me quite thoroughly. Thank you very much."

Copeland adds that he has never been sued for declining to perform a marriage. However, he fears that the bill was filed because lawmakers think the LGBT community is a threat to the religious community. This is the reason why he is against the bill.

The Pastor Protection Act, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday, takes effect on July 1.