Tennessee House passes bill allowing clerks to refuse to issue same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses – LifeSite

NASHVILLE (LifeSiteNews) – The Tennessee House of Representatives voted 74-22 Monday to pass legislation that would guarantee courthouse staffers and county clerks the right not to issue marriage licenses for unions that conflict with their consciences, in what is being framed as a challenge to forced nationwide recognition of same-sex “marriage.”

HB 878, which spans less than half a page, simply states that a “person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage if the person has an objection to solemnizing the marriage based on the person’s conscience or religious beliefs,” and that it would take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. The state Senate’s Judiciary Committee is slated to begin considering the legislation on March 13.

Republican state Rep. Monty Fritts said that, while he was not aware of a case of a local government official being “forced to solemnize a marriage” in the Volunteer State, HB 878 was necessary to get the principle on the record, especially amid a broader climate of hostility toward religious Americans’ “civil liberties and rights.”

“They’re coming for our marriage rights again. And that’s what we fought for the longest,” LGBT activist Kye Sanders complained. “The Tennessee legislature and conservatives have an issue with the LGBT community and are targeting us over and over again, anyone who can see and hear and understand knows what’s happening.”

It is unclear how the bill would interact with the so-called Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), a federal law enacted in December which formally requires all 50 states to recognize the same-sex “marriages” of other states, effectively codifying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.

While HB 878 protects employees’ right not to participate in same-sex “marriages,” it does not preclude homosexual couples from seeking service from more willing employees. Mainstream media coverage of the legislation frames it as a challenge to the RMA and Obergefell, but a reading of the bill itself suggests it is more focused on carving out space for individual conscience within the current marriage regime.

It remains to be seen whether HB 878 will pass the Republican-controlled state Senate, or whether Republican Gov. Bill Lee would sign it into law. Lee has approved other conservative legislation on LGBT issues, including bans on minors attending drag shows, gender “transitions” for minors, and gender-confused males participating in female-specific college athletic programs.