Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, on Thursday signed a bill into law that protects churches from being forced to marry gay and lesbian couples.

The so-called “Pastor Protection Act” cleared the Republican-led Senate with a 23-15 vote last Thursday, a day after it cleared the House.

Opponents of the bill note that clergy are currently protected under the First Amendment.

Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, the bill's sponsor, has denied that his bill is a reaction to the Supreme Court's finding that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry, saying that his aim was to offer an “extra layer of protection” to clergy opposed to marrying gay couples.

Rep. David Richardson, a Democrat from Miami Beach and the Legislature's only openly gay member, described the legislation as “an insult to the gay community.”