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US State’s Opt-Out Law For Officiating At Same Sex Marriages

by | Mon, Mar 4 2024

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The US state of Tennessee has passed a law giving government employees the right to refuse to officiate at same sex marriages because of their religious beliefs. The law which applies to judges, county clerks and other public officials took effect immediately. Religious leaders already had the right to refuse.

The State Assembly which is dominated by Republicans overwhelmingly approved the bill. Its sponsor Monty Fritts said the government had a responsibility to protect the exercise of religious beliefs. He added that: “Those with the authority to perform civil ceremonies would also be permitted to refuse to solemnise marriage for reasons of conscience.”

The bill’s text declares: A person shall not be required to solemnise a marriage if the person has an objection to solemnising the marriage based on the person’s conscience or religious beliefs.

A fiscal note from the Tennessee Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee found that: “The proposed legislation is not expected to have any significant impact on the number of marriages solemnised in Tennessee, nor on the number of marriage licenses issued; therefore, any fiscal impact to state or local government is estimated to be not significant.”

NBC News reports at least four other states have enacted similar laws. It’s nine years since the US Supreme Court established Americans’ right to same sex marriage.