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Tennessee bill could allow officials to decline same-sex marriage

Even though the bill doesn't specifically address same-sex marriages, critics say it means LGBTQ+ couples could be denied their right to marry.
Tennessee bill could allow officials to decline same-sex marriage
Posted at 2:29 PM, Feb 15, 2024

In Tennessee, a bill that would allow public officials to decline to solemnize a marriage based on their conscience or religious beliefs is now one signature away from becoming law.

Even though the bill doesn't specifically address same-sex marriages, critics say it means LGBTQ+ couples could be denied their right to marry.

LGBTQ+ groups, like the Tennessee Equality Project, say the law creates confusion for same-sex couples. Ministers and priests already have the right to deny same-sex marriages in the state.

One of the bill's sponsors says the bill is "designed to protect the rights of officiants at wedding ceremonies."

"I don't think there's any law that says I have to go through, but there's no law I'm not required to either — so this would just make it clear," said Sen. Mark Pody. 

One local pastor, who testified before lawmakers, called the bill pointless.

"It's regressive and has the potential to turn back hard-fought victories for multiple groups of people — certainly LGBTQ people, interracial marriage," said Travis Meier, pastor at First Lutheran Church. "It just gives somebody almost a free-for-all to do what they want."

If signed into law, it will most likely be challenged in court since same-sex marriage is now a fundamental right, legalized in all 50 states in 2015 — after being affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

SEE MORE: Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions passes House


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