Marriage bill stalls amid debate over who can perform ceremonies

A seeking to allow more elected officials to officiate over wedding ceremonies has run into trouble in the House amid a myriad of questions about the purpose of the legislation.

Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) put off the bill after extensive questioning on the House floor about the need for extending the officiating power to all current and former state lawmakers (the speakers of both chambers can already solemnize weddings), plus nearly 1,700 city or town council members.

The bill would also specify that that ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis, or other spiritual leaders must be ordained or “otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple or other religious group or organization” in order to preside over weddings.

“We have right now in Tennessee a situation where people are going online and getting an online ordination in order to marry friends and family members,” said House Judiciary Chairman Michael Curcio (R-Dickson). “Right now we don’t know under the eyes of the law whether those are legal marriages. So we desperately need clarification.”

Some lawmakers raised concerns that the bill doesn’t prohibit gratuities to be paid to officials presiding over wedding ceremonies. Others worried they could be pressured into solemnizing marriages they don’t agree with.

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) said she sees marriage as a commitment as well as a “covenant and that I do support those who bring a man and a woman together in holy matrimony.”

“My question to you is do I have any protections should I say no if someone would ask me will you marry us and I say no?” Weaver asked. “What are the legal clarity protections to me when I say no? Are there any legal protections that are afforded to me?”

Travis said nobody will be forced to perform marriages.

“It is permissive what you want to do to ordain someone in marriage,” he said.

Weaver appeared unpersuaded.

“I guess what I’m rising to speak to is the religious liberties that I would like to be [permitted] to say no,” she said. “So because of the ambiguity in this piece of legislation, I would not be able to support this bill.”

Read the full story here.


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