Tennessee House and Senate Republicans are voting on legislation this week that effectively attempts to bypass the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell ruling that finds same-sex couples have the same rights and responsibilities to marriage as their different-sex peers. The bill creates all-age marriages classified as common-law "one man and one woman" unions while mandating the state defend in court any clerk who decides to not issue a marriage license for any reason.
The extremist legislation comes as Republicans across the country are falsely claiming Democrats support the "grooming" of children – pedophilia – after Florida governor Ron DeSantis' press secretary wrongly characterized the now-infamous "Don't Say Gay" bill.
WZTV reports the bill creates "a separate marriage class," and points to an amended version of the original bill that adds this line to the legislation: "Establishes common law marriage in the state between one man and one woman."
WKRN adds that opponents "say it would eliminate an age requirement, and in some instances, open the door for a coverup of child sex abuse."
The bill's sponsor makes clear his intent is to do an end-run around Obergefell.
“So, 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,” says GOP state Rep. Tom Leatherwood.
“There is not an explicit age limit,” Rep. Leatherwood, a former school teacher, admitted.
House Bill 233 has been placed on the Civil Justice Committee's calendar for Wednesday. Its companion, Senate Bill 562 is on the Senate's calendar for Thursday.