Tennessee lawmakers have reintroduced the Natural Marriage Defense Act, which would prohibit same-sex marriage in the state, reported the Tennessean.
The act was introduced by Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton. It states that the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage is void in Tennessee because Tennessee had its own law and constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
If passed, the bill would prohibit government officials from recognizing a court ruling affirming same-sex unions. Anyone failing to recognize same-sex marriages would also not be arrested for doing so and the attorney general of Tennessee would be required to defend this law in any court challenges.
The same bill was introduced in 2017 and 2016 and failed to advance each time. It was previously estimated to cost the state about $9 billion in federal funding.
“The far right’s dream scenario is this would go back before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court would accept it,” said Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBTQ rights organization.
Rep. Sexton said that Tennessee and other states like it were “left with confusion” about how marriage laws should be constructed after the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015.
“What we have to do is we have to pass laws that go back to the courts and let them be challenged,” he 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.”
As to whether the legislation is an attempt to outlaw same-sex marriage, Sexton said they’re still working out the details.
“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.”
According to Sanders, Tennessee’s LGBTQ community is ready to oppose the bill if it gains traction.
“If it moves, certainly, you will see an outcry in this state like you’ve never seen,” Sanders said. “That will absolutely ignite huge numbers of people engaging the legislature.”