GOP lawmaker wants to let wedding officiants discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples

2 min read

GOP lawmaker wants to let wedding officiants discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples

The Tennessee Senate recently passed a bill, S.B. 596, which allows wedding officiants to refuse to conduct marriages if they believe the couple’s relationship contradicts their personal conscience or religious beliefs. Although the bill appears to target LGBTQ+ couples, it technically permits officiants to discriminate against any couple. State Rep. Monty Fritts (R), who sponsored the companion bill in the House, argues that the legislation is designed to protect the rights of officiants. However, critics, including reports from NewsChannel5 and Huffington Post, point out that there is no existing Tennessee law that obligates officiants to conduct marriages that conflict with their beliefs, rendering the necessity of this bill questionable.

The bill specifically addresses the “solemnization” of marriage, which is the act of performing a wedding ceremony, rather than the issuance of marriage licenses—a task typically performed by clerks. Despite some initial confusion, the bill does not allow clerks to refuse marriage licenses to couples. This clarification comes from Eric A. Patton, an officiant, who distinguishes between issuing a license and performing marriage rites. Patton also expressed concerns to WKRN that the bill’s vague language might be an attempt to challenge the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges) by inviting lawsuits similar to those involving Kim Davis, who famously refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

As the bill progresses to the Tennessee House of Representatives for further consideration, it continues to stir debate over its implications for marriage equality and the potential for discriminatory practices under the guise of protecting religious and personal beliefs.

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