Tennessee Republicans Vie for Title of Most Dangerous State for LGBTQ+ People

Marriage equality is finally a thing in Greece, the first Christian Orthodox-majority country in the world to let love rule. And on Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, no less. Isle of Lesbos, come through!

According to The Advocate, a conservative Greece politician warned that legalizing marriage equality would “open the gates of hell and perversion” in the country.

You know, just like it did in Canada way back when. As a matter of fact, when you do a Google Earth search of Ottawa, it looks like a Hieronymus Bosch painting. And you can get that painting on a tote bag or coffee mug for just $20. All proceeds go to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Zombie Relief Fund.

In all seriousness, though. Congratulations, Greece! We love some good queer news.

Meanwhile, 5,700 miles from Lesbos, how did Republicans in Nashville, Tennessee spend Feb. 15? Perhaps issuing a formal proclamation congratulating Greece on its entrance into the world of marriage equality?

Ha. Hardly. Instead, Tennessee Republicans passed a bill to make it easier for people to discriminate against queer couples looking to get married in the state.

The bill “could potentially allow individuals to refuse to officiate marriages based on their personal beliefs, including objections to LGBTQ+ weddings,” the Advocate reports. “The legislation, Senate Bill 596, declares that ‘a person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage if the person has an objection to solemnizing the marriage based on the person’s conscience or religious beliefs.’”

Of course, the Tennessee Republicans HAD to do this in order to protect the religious rights of everyone who attends the No Homo Megachurch because such protections did not exist elsewhere, right?

Come on. You know where this is going.

“Tennessee law already permits individuals to decline to officiate at marriages if they choose,” reports the Advocate.

So now the law, like, what? Extra permission to tell queer couples to pound sand?

Eric Patton, a minister in Tennessee, told WKRN “the open-ended wording of the bill would allow anyone permitted to solemnize a marriage to refuse to solemnize marriages between interracial couples or even heterosexual couples.”

Sounds bad!

“The way it’s worded, you can discriminate against anybody for any reason, which is terrible,” Patton said.

If Tennessee already legally protects people who don’t want to solemnize a particular marriage, then why on earth pass this bill?

“There’s nothing in the law right now that says anybody has to do any kind of marriage at all, so there’s no clarification that this bill provides,” Eric Patton, a minister in Tennessee told WKRN. “This bill does nothing, essentially, except open the opportunity for a lawsuit.”

Ding, ding, ding! It’s all about the suit, baby. Drunk on their power after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, conservatives are going after marriage equality, just as so many predicted.

“The way they have vaguely worded this is that they’re trying to invite a Kim Davis-type lawsuit to go up against Obergefell because they’re wanting to test the marriage equality law as it stands,” Patton said.

Obergefell v. Hodges is, of course, the landmark Supreme Court decision that made marriage equality a nationwide thing in June of 2015. Kim Davis was a municipal clerk in Kentucky who made a name for herself after she refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in August of 2015 because she was just not feelin’ the Supreme Court case.

Conservatives hope that today’s Supreme Court, stacked with ultra-conservative justices appointed by disgraced former president Trump, will overturn Obergefell just like they did Roe. And, sadly, they absolutely will.

And Tennessee wants to get in on the ground floor! Republicans there have been very busy! According to HuffPost, “Last year Tennessee introduced ― and passed ― more anti-LGBTQ laws than any other state.”

Quite the achievement considering how many state legislatures across the country have made hurting LGBTQ+ people their number one priority like it’s a competition. A competition that I, frankly, do not want to see anyone win.

“The Tennessee House of Representatives continues to be one of the most dangerous legislative chambers in the country for LGBTQ+ people,” Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders said in a statement last year.

And they’ve only gotten worse since then.

“The idea that you can discriminate against anybody is just wrong-headed and general Tennessee nonsense,” Patton said.

Ooooh. “General Tennessee Nonsense.” A new state motto, perhaps? Right now Tennessee’s state motto is “Agriculture and Commerce.” Like, how is that even a motto? It sounds like a boring pre-req for an MBA. But clearly, they are in the business of foolishness and owe it to the people to accurately reflect that truth.

D'Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living life with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter.