Explainer: anti-LGBTQ marriage bill criticized

Explainer: anti-LGBTQ marriage bill criticized

Nashville, Tenn. ( Associated Press) — Among the many bills introduced in Tennessee that have garnered national attention this year, none have sparked so much alarm among both Republicans and Democrats as a proposal that specifically targets same-sex Will create a new marriage contract designed to carry out. couple

Proponents argue that the measure is needed to give religious authorities, couples and others who oppose same-sex marriage an alternative that will not conflict with their beliefs.

Critics say it is a deliberate attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage and could lead to a costly legal battle. Many have noted that the bill initially failed to include a minimum age – an omission that has opened the door to widespread ridicule. Some worry the move helped reinforce stereotypes of Tennessee as backward.

Republican sponsors of the bill have played down concerns that the age lapse would result in a wave of child marriages, but they have since introduced an amendment that would include the age requirement to be 18 or older.

Who will be eligible for Common Law Marriage Contract?

If enacted, the law would allow opposite-sex couples to fill out a marriage “contract” based on common law marriage principles. Generally, common law marriage refers to the legal protection of marriage given to couples who live together as a married couple, but who have not obtained a state marriage license.

According to the National Convention of State Legislatures, only eight states allow common law marriage, and Tennessee is not one of them. This is a practice that dates back to colonial times in America when it was sometimes difficult to find a preacher to celebrate a wedding.

The Tennessee bill, however, specifically states that the contract would only apply to “one man and one woman,” preventing same-sex couples from pursuing the option. Couples of the opposite sex will not have to file contracts with the state, which means county clerks will not have to recognize contracts like they do with marriage licenses.

“This law has kept me up at night,” Republican Representative Johnny Garrett told lawmakers earlier this week.

Garrett, who is an attorney, said the lack of state recognition would mean that couples would be unable to claim benefits and would be deprived of the rights usually given to married couples. He also pointed out that there is nothing to prevent individuals from entering into multiple contracts.

“We are going to legalize polygamy in this state,” he warned.

Republican Representative Tom Leatherwood said people can commit fraud by using a marriage license and said he believes courts will recognize contracts so that individuals can receive spousal benefits.

“This all-in-all bill provides an alternative form of marriage for clergy and other individuals who have a conscientious objection to the current route of marriage in our law,” Leatherwood said during a legislative hearing in March.

Will the bill allow child marriage?

When the bill was first introduced in the House, Democratic Representative Mike Stewart quickly pointed out that the proposed common law marriage contract did not include a minimum age.

Currently, there is no federal minimum age requirement to get married. Instead, the decision is left to the states. For Tennessee, the minimum age to obtain a marriage license is 18, but children as young as 17 can be married as long as they have parental consent. Under 2018 state law, it is illegal to marry minors aged 11-17.

The proposed Common Law Marriage Bill will not automatically legalize child marriage. But the omission of an age requirement led to widespread criticism that it would create a loophole in allowing children to marry.

After downplaying child marriage charges, sponsors changed the bill to say it would apply to opposite-sex couples who “have both attained the age of majority,” who are 18 years old in Tennessee. is of

But that hasn’t deterred skeptics from Democrats and Republicans, who worry the bill is setting the state up for a costly trial.

“The argument that this is going to set up two separate paths to marriage is clearly unconstitutional in violation of the Obergfeld decision, which is the law of the land,” said attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who in 2013 ruled Tennessee’s ban. helped lead the challenge. gay marriage.

The lawsuit, filed by Rubenfeld, was involved in the SCOTUS case that eventually legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.

Rubenfeld warned lawmakers, “We won that case before the Supreme Court and, as you probably know, received a huge prize—in attorney fees and costs—that Tennessee taxpayers had to pay.” “It could be costly for our state to adopt unconstitutional laws.”

Who is supporting the proposal?

Bill’s fate remains unknown. Despite having about 20 Republican co-sponsors, GOP Senate President Randy McNeely told reporters this week that he would not support it because of constitutional problems. The bill is set for several weeks for debate before the full Senate, but has been delayed several times over the sponsor’s request.

In the House, the bill was discussed in a committee this week, but lawmakers ran out of time before they could vote. It is expected to come again next Wednesday.

“I don’t know if he has the votes,” Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton recently told reporters. “I think we’ll find out next week.”


Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattis contributed to this report.