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An Update from AMM on Tennessee's Anti-Online Ordination Law

Published Wednesday, Jun. 10th, 2020

Updated March 29, 2021


It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the one-year anniversary of Tennessee’s anti-online ordination law (SB1377/HB0213) and essentially nothing has changed.


The law sparked widespread outrage with its clear intent to strip couples of their right to choose who officiates their wedding ceremony, and wedding officiants of their right to perform marriage.


But resistance to the law on both the legal and social fronts remains strong. Here at American Marriage Ministries, our lawyers are watching the situation closely to ensure that our ministers’ rights are not trampled.




It’s been almost a year. Here’s where things currently stand:


Basically, the case is being shuffled between the courts, as lawyers and judges decide where the case will be heard. The 6th Circuit courth is considering a motion to remand the case back to the District court by agreement of all the parties so that the District court can address the 11th Amendment sovereign immunity issues. (That's an ammendment to the constitution which says that federal courts do not have the authority to hear cases brought by private citizens against states).


The District Court filed a ruling letter with the 6th Circuit stating that it will hear and decide the motions to dismiss on sovereign immunity. This will then allow the state and all state defendants or the Plaintiffs (whichever party loses on sovereign immunity) to file a consolidated appeal to the 6th Circuit.


Both the Plaintiff and all Defendants have expressed that they will appeal the decision by the District court on sovereign immunity.




What does this mean for folks that are planning their weddings, or wondering if they will be able to continue serving their communities as wedding officiants?


It means that no decision has been reached yet by the courts, and it’s a waiting game. In fact, it could be a while before this case is resolved, given the rate at which things are currently progressing.


As soon as the 6th Circuit rules on the motion - which it is expected to grant - the District Court will issue a briefing schedule, and we will get an idea as to the timeline moving forward. Once that schedule is published, we’ll have a better idea of what’s going to happen next, and when it will happen.




Many of you are wondering: Can I still perform marriage in Tennessee as an online-ordained AMM Minister?


Yes. Until a future court decision settles the matter, online ordinations are valid for the purposes of officiating weddings in the state, and no special in-person or mail-in ordination is required in the state of Tennessee.


Because a federal judge put a hold on the new law, you can continue to perform marriage in the state of Tennessee as long as you are ordained online by American Marriage Ministries, or some other recognized church! 


If you are filing a marriage license or meeting with a county clerk, we recommend that you download a copy of the judge's order (click “Download PDF” button underneath the image of the document) and show it to them. The order clearly states that any enforcement of the amended statute is stayed by Judge Crenshaw.



Make sure to check back in often and follow us on Facebook , Instagram , and Twitter for any updates regarding the ongoing legal challenge in Tennessee.






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