The Alabama House has approved a bill that seeks to allow officials such as judges and ministers to refuse to perform a marriage ceremony.

Opponents of the Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act say it's another effort to prevent gay couples from marrying in the state.

The legislative proposal cleared the House on Thursday with a 69-25 vote after a contentious debate that lasted nearly four hours, reported. The measure now heads to the Senate.

During the debate, state Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama's only openly gay House member, called the bill “very hurtful.”

“Alabama isn't exactly the most progressive state in the country,” she told Yahoo News. “We are constantly the laughingstock of the country, and this continues that tradition.”

Todd said that the bill was unnecessary since officials already have the right to refuse to perform wedding ceremonies.

“The reality is this was just pandering to their constituents so they could say they stood up on same-sex marriage when it didn't do anything,” she said.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Hill, told colleagues that he simply wanted to “clarify” existing laws.

After a federal judge struck down Alabama's restrictive marriage ban and gay couples began marrying, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing such licenses. Marriage equality supporters responded by filing a class action lawsuit.

(Related: Roy S. Moore: Gays can marry a person of the opposite sex.)