Florida pastor marries 20 gay couples as same-sex marriage ban lifted

Rev Dr Jim MerrittHoly Cross Metropolitan Community Church

A Florida pastor has celebrated the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the state with a flurry of gay weddings.

Jim Merritt, senior pastor of Holy Cross Metropolitan Community Church, performed 20 gay marriages on Tuesday with the help of other clergy at the church, according to the Huffington Post.

A court ruling that lifted the ban on same-sex marriage in all 67 counties in Florida came into effect on Tuesday.

The church began the ceremonies at 10am with weddings scheduled every 30 minutes throughout the day. Merritt also celebrated his own marriage to his partner, Al Leach.

Speaking to the Huffington Post the pastor said: "It was the best birthday gift I could have gotten. Al and I have been together in a committed relationship for over 20 years... For us to achieve marriage equality at home was a joyful occasion."

Merritt and Leach are among a number of homosexual couples who have filed law suits against the courts for preventing them from getting married.

But not everyone shares in their joy. Merritt said the church had received threats of protests in the days prior to the ceremonies.

"I have to be careful about my own security during highly publicized periods of life," he said.

Even so, the weddings will continue. Merritt said the church has around two weddings every week planned for the foreseeable future, and already has weddings scheduled for 2016.

"We expect this to be a large part of our practice," he said.