***The Iowa Standard is an independent media voice. We rely on the financial support of our readers to exist. Please consider a one-time sign of support or becoming a monthly supporter at $5, $10/month - whatever you think we're worth! If you’ve ever used the phrase “Fake News” — now YOU can actually DO something about it! You can also support us on PayPal at [email protected] or Venmo at Iowa-Standard-2018 or through the mail at: PO Box 112 Sioux Center, IA 51250

By Sarah Holliday
The Washington Stand

In 2021, the case of the baker Jack Phillips, Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, saturated the media. LGBT activists were opposed to a Christian man exercising his freedom of religion by declining to make a cake for a trans activist celebrating a gender transition.

Phillips said he was asked to make a cake with “a color scheme, a combination, designed to celebrate a gender transition.” He added that when he declined to make it, the customer quickly sued the bakery. “This customer came to us intentionally to get us to create a cake or deny creating a cake that went against our religious beliefs,” he said.

This case was prominent for those who care about the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. But on Wednesday, a state celebrated a significant victory on this front when Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a bill that protects public officials who don’t want to perform a same-sex marriage because it violates their “conscience or religious beliefs.”

The Hill clarified that this legislation does not prohibit those in same-sex relationships from getting a marriage license. They are still able to do so from someone willing to file the paperwork. But the bill, HB 878, states that someone with deeply held religious beliefs “shall not be required to solemnize a marriage.”

Molly Whitehorn, associate director of Regional Campaigns for the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign, claimed the bill intentionally excludes “LGBTQ+ folks from equal protection under the law.” Camilla Taylor, deputy legal director for litigation for the LGBT group Lambda Legal, said it rolls “back recent progress by the LGBTQ community,” and added that the bill is “patently unconstitutional.”

These arguments, however, are largely about the inconvenience of couples who may have “to use a different process to obtain marriage licenses.” But in response to such claims, State Senator Mark Pody (R-Tenn.) emphasized that the bill “has nothing to do with getting a license, it has nothing to do with the clerks required to give a license.” Rather, it has everything to do with who does or does not perform a marriage ceremony.

In comments to The Washington Stand, Arielle Del Turco, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, said, “This bill offers conscience protections for those who are in a position to perform marriages for couples.” She added that it “protects individuals from being required to solemnize a marriage that might violate their sincerely held religious belief.”

Del Turco continued, “There are many well-qualified religious individuals serving as state judges, justices, and magistrates who should not feel that they must violate their conscience in order to keep their jobs.” Concerning the rights to free speech and religion protected by the First Amendment, she added that while the Tennessee bill is not necessary to allow the practice of these rights, it is helpful in further protecting them. As she put it, “It’s true that no one can technically be forced to facilitate a same-sex wedding in violation of their religious beliefs under our Constitution, but they still might face pressure from the state government or the possible loss of their job for declining to do so.”

An example she referenced is that, in the past, we’ve “seen judges receive public warnings for offering referrals for same-sex weddings instead of solemnizing marriages for a same-sex couple.” Because of this, “it’s helpful to have a state law that clarifies that judges and magistrates cannot be required to solemnize a marriage that violates their religious beliefs.”

Del Turco concluded, “This bill is a win for religious freedom in Tennessee and will hopefully inspire other states to take similar measures to protect the rights of religious people.”

Originally published at The Washington Stand!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here