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New TN legislation proposes an alternate form of marriage, attempts to side-step Obergefell and age restrictions

Published Wednesday, Apr. 6th, 2022

Lawmakers in Tennessee are considering legislation that would create an ‘alternate form of marriage’ only available to straight couples consisting of one man and one woman.


The two bills, Senate Bill 562 and companion House Bill 233, appear to be a pushback against the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling in 2015, which struck down the state’s ban against same-sex marriage. 


This new ‘alternate’ form of marriage would give straight couples a way to register their union as a type of common law marriage, while demonstrating their objection to the current process. 


Or as Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R) put it: “All this bill does is give an alternative form of marriage for those pastors and other individuals who have a conscientious objection to the current pathway to marriage in our law.”


As is so often the case, Rep. Leatherwood’s quote glosses over a much more sinister reading of the bill, one that has sent alarm bells ringing for same-sex couples and their allies.


If passed, the bills would also offer more protection for county workers who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex and other LGBTQ+ couples, and would eliminate the minimum age requirement for marriage in the state, which is currently 17 years old. 


“There is not an explicit age limit,” Leatherwood told members of the subcommittee. (via The Advocate


It’s unclear whether amendments will be made to the bill to specify age of consent, but criticism against the omission has been swift and loud – grabbing headlines from local news to Newsweek – and has caused considerable alarm among organizations advocating against child marriage, including The Sexual Assault Center of Middle Tennessee. (via The Advocate)



The bills will be discussed in committee this week. Stay tuned for more details.


Subscribe to the AMM Monthly Newsletter. 



Get the full scoop in Trudy Ring’s article for The Advocate.   


Read the full text for TN House Bill 233 here. 



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