Tennessee bill allowing officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples inches closer to reality

The Tennessee state capitol building.

Tennessee is inching closer towards passing yet another discriminatory bill for LGBTQ+ people – this time allowing officials to refuse equal marriage.

The state House of Representatives passed a bill that would essentially legalise objections from county clerks who refused to marry same-sex and interracial couples.

House Bill 878 would directly challenge federal marriage equality protections and Supreme Court rulings that allow same-sex and interracial marriage to take place throughout the US.

Proposed by Republican representative Monty Fritts, the bill means that clerks would not be required to permit same-sex marriage if they have an objection “based on… conscience or religious beliefs”.

It passed to the next stage of legislative hearings, alongside anti-drag bill HB30, which requires drag artists to obtain permits before performing.

This latest move comes after governor Bill Lee signed two separate anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law – one of which essentially bans public drag completely, while the other removes gender-affirming care for trans kids.

You may like to watch

Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow branded the lawmakers unrelenting in the frequency of their anti-LGBTQ+ attacks.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Not only does Fritts believe that trans youth are being “mutilated” through gender-affirming care – a lie pushed by some hard-line right-wing pundits – a post on his website suggests he believes the 2020 election-fraud conspiracy – which led to the 6 January Capitol attack in 2021 – saying that the election “left many with significant concerns”.

Monty Fritts taking a selfie in a baseball cap and sunglasses.
Monty Fritts proposed the anti-LBTQ+ bill. (Twitter)

Several sponsors of the bill hold similar views.

Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders said: “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’s time they became the people’s House once again.”