EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - The Texas Attorney General says the Pastor Protection Bill, which was signed Thursday by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, is an important step to further protect the religious freedom of clergy.
The bill shields churches from lawsuits regarding their refusal to perform or host a marriage ceremony that violates their religious beliefs, such as as same-sex weddings.
There are churches on just about every corner in East Texas along with signs that read, "Jesus is Lord."
"You passed about five churches just to get here," said Gene Hazell, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church.
The pastors said they would assume their peers here in the Bible Belt mostly agree.
"God instituted marriage. Only God should be able to change his design for marriage," Hazell said.
One pastor said that the condemnation of those who won't budge on the same-sex marriage topic is higher than ever.
"I hate to say I have noticed that there is hatred and intolerance of Christians that take a biblical stand," said David Hunt, the pastor of Eastview United Pentecostal Church.
They say they will stand firmly.
"It goes against what we believe the Holy scripture of God teaches," Hazell said.
Each pastor made it clear that standing by the biblical definition of marriage doesn't mean they are homophobic or that they don't accept and love everyone.
"One man, one woman," Hunt said.
"It is between a man and a woman, and that definition will always be," said Father Joe
, pastor of St. Andrew Catholic Church.
"It's not that we are anti-homosexual, we are anti-sin-of-homosexuality," Hazell said.
Though gay marriage is currently prohibited in the state's constitution, the pastors said they are grateful to have this protection they never imagined they would need.
"I could have never imagined that we would try to change something that for thousands of years has been described as marriage," Hunt said.
Abbot said the bill gives pastors the freedom to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The new law will go into effect September 1.