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Tennessee House Passes Bill That Could Deny Marriage To Same-Sex And Interracial Couples

LGBTQ+ activists are sounding the alarm after the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that could allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses.

Tennessee House Passes Bill That Could Deny Marriage To Same-Sex And Interracial Couples
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Tennessee definitely isn't backing down from their anti-LGBTQ+ lawmaking spree, this time passing a bill that will hinder people's right to get married.

The Tennessee House of Representatives just passed a bill that if signed into law would allow county clerks to deny marriages if they object based on their "conscience or religious beliefs."

The bill, Tennessee House Bill 878, would amend the Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-3-310 to add a new subsection that reads:

"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."

The bill as written would allow anyone who is allowed to perform marriages in Tennessee to refuse to solemnize the marriage of anyone they object to on grounds of "conscience or religious beliefs," including trans people, gay people, interfaith couples and even mixed race couples.

While it seems bizarre in 2023, there are still religions that preach mixing races is unacceptable.

Tennessee law already allows religious leaders to opt out of officiating marriages they object to, but HB 878 would apply to anyone who can solemnize a marriage–including public servants like county clerks, who could outright refuse to certify marriages.

While Tennessee's recent anti-LGBTQ+ bills and laws have seemed to focus mostly on transgender Tennesseans and drag performers, HB 878 has a much broader scope.

The calls to action online were plentiful.

While some online pointed out this bill is illegal at the federal level, others were quick to identify the bill as an attempt to get the matter of marriage equality back before the Supreme Court.

Officials from the Human Rights Campaign, among many other organizations and even the White House, are speaking out against Tennessee's apparent obsession with legislating away the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement:

"Extremist Tennessee lawmakers are unrelenting in their discriminatory attacks on the LGBTQ+ community."
"Instead of focusing on the issues that Tennesseans actually care about, radical politicians are wasting their time and using their power to target the LGBTQ+ community—from same sex couples, to transgender youth, to drag artists."
"These bills are not about protecting children and they are not about religious freedom."
"They are about stripping away the basic human rights that LGBTQ+ people have fought for over decades, forcing LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people, back in the closet and labeling us as dangerous."
"We urge the Tennessee Senate to reject these discriminatory, hateful bills."

Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders said of the bills:

"The Tennessee House of Representatives continues to be one of the most dangerous legislative chambers in the country for LGBTQ+ people."
"They have ignored constituents in their offices, phone calls, and compelling committee testimony. It is time they became the People's House again."

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned Tennessee Governor Bill Lee's signing of the state's anti-drag law during a press briefing on Friday.

She said:

"The governor of Tennessee has decided to go after drag shows. What sense does that make to go after drag shows?"<
"How is that going to help people’s lives who are thinking about the economy, who are thinking about making sure their kids are going to be safe when they go to school or their communities are safe?"
"But that’s what he wants to focus on."

While Tennessee is far from the only state targeting the LGBTQ+ community through legislation, they do seem to be passing an awful lot of bills.