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Tennessee governor signs bill allowing public officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill Wednesday that allows public officials to veto same-sex marriages.

State Legislature Approves Tennessee House Bill 878 last week. The law states that if people object to marriage on the basis of “conscience or religious belief,” “the marriage need not be solemnized.” The governor signed the bill on Wednesday, according to the Tennessee General Assembly website.

Lee has not yet commented publicly on the bill, according to his social media and office website.

The bill does not allow authorities to deny couples marriage licenses based on their beliefs, but it prohibits authorities from requiring marriages to be solemnized. The state Legislature first passed the bill in March 2023, but the state Legislature delayed it until 2024 for consideration.

Lee made headlines last year when he signed a bill banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, making it the nation’s first regulation of drag performances. A federal judge later ruled that the restrictions on drag shows were unconstitutional.

The bill has faced criticism from LGBTQ advocacy groups. Molly Whitehorn, deputy regional campaigns director for the Human Rights Campaign, said last week that the bill “aims to exclude LGBTQ+ people from equal protection under the law.”

Tennessee Republicans argued that the bill was not intended to discriminate against same-sex couples or prevent them from marrying. The bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, Republican state Sen. Mark Pody, said on the Senate floor last week that the bill “has nothing to do with licensing.”

The Hill has reached out to Lee’s office for further comment.

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