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Tennessee lawmakers seek to ban same-sex marriage with the Natural Marriage Defense Act

Tennessee lawmakers seek to ban same-sex marriage with the Natural Marriage Defense Act

Tennessee State Capital building in Nashville

Lawmakers in Tennessee have reintroduced the Natural Marriage Defense Act. The bill failed to advance when introduced in 2017 as well as in 2016.

This bill was previously estimated to cost the state about $9 billion [€7,932,330,000] in federal funding.


The Natural Marriage Defense Act, introduced by Republican congressmen Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton, states that the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalize same-sex marriage is void in the state of Tennessee. The reason given is that Tennessee already has its own law and constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

This bill would prohibit government officials, such as clerks who give out marriage licenses, from recognizing any ruling that affirms same-sex unions. It also specifies that they will not be arrested for failing to recognize same-sex marriages.

Additionally, the bill would require that Tennessee’s attorney general defends this law in any subsequent court challenges.

‘The far right’s dream scenario is this would go back before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court would accept it,’ Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told The Tennessean.

The Tennessee Equality Project is an LGBTI rights organization. They have opposed the Natural Marriage Defense Act in the past.

Rep. Sexton

Rep. Sexton, however, believes that following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Tennessee and similar states were ‘left with confusion’ about how marriage laws should work.

‘What we have to do is we have to pass laws that go back to the courts and let them be challenged,’ Sexton said. ‘I don’t know that this bill will do that. I’m not advocating a lawsuit or anything. We’re bringing it up for the discussion.’

When asked if this bill is an attempt to outlaw same-sex marriage in Tennessee, Sexton said he and Sen. Pody are still working on the text of the bill.

‘It’s just too early for me to get into the details and say what the exact intent of it is,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to get it exactly right so that we can explain it. I’m not ready to explain it in depth.’

Defending same-sex marriage in Tennessee

Still, LGBTI people and allies across the state are ready to fight this bill, should it advance this time around.

‘If it moves, certainly, you will see an outcry in this state like you’ve never seen,’ Sanders stated. ‘That will absolutely ignite huge numbers of people engaging the legislature.’

See Also:

6 ridiculous things people have said might happen if same-sex marriage is allowed

Second anti-marriage equality suit filed in Tennessee

Tennessee lawmaker pushes ahead with anti-gay marriage bill despite warning it could cost $8.5 billion in federal funding