Florida governor Rick Scott is expected to sign a new law in his state that "will specify that churches can't be forced to marry same-sex couples."
The Associated Press reports that state Senator Aaron Bean, who sponsored the bill last August, noted Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, as the reason for the bill, which goes into effect this summer. Bean compared the bill to a flu shot, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The bill also allows for churches and "religious-based organizations" to refuse gay couples from holding ceremonies and receptions as well.
"A definition of marriage that many held sacred and part of their religious belief was turned upside down," said Bean, a Republican. "The entire marriage world turned upside down. Some celebrated and some are still scratching their heads, but that's now the law of the land. So, that's why we're here."
Bean was unable to cite an example of a church previously being told it had to marry a same-sex couple, and opponents of the bill say it's unnecessary since the federal and state constitutions already allow for churches to refuse to marry couples based on the church's beliefs. Democratic state Senator Geraldine Thompson called the law "unnecessary."
Bean said the bill was precautionary.
"Have you ever heard of a senator or a representative that hopes their bill is never used or tested? I'm the first," he said. "Hopefully no one will ever challenge somebody in the practice of their religion. That will be a sad day in our nation in our state … Some say that's where our nation is headed."
In October, when the bill was first being debated, pastor Harold Thompson of Miami Beach Community Church called the measure divisive.
“Search your heart. Look at the true intent of this bill. It is not to protect pastors, it is not to protect the church, it is to protect an agenda. It is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, intending to deceive, intending to harm,” he said.
The law, HB 43, goes into effect July 1.
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