For more than three months, Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt says he has been working on the Pastor Protection Act to protect the rights of his constituents.
“It's hard for me to understand how a Supreme Court of nine individuals can supersede the will of 81 percent of Tennessee,” Holt said regarding the state's vote to ban gay marriage eight years ago.
Holt says in response to the Supreme Court's decision, Tennessee could hold a special session to vote on legislation regarding same-sex marriage. The special session will happen in one of three ways: a governor's request, the request of the senate and house majority leader, or a two-thirds majority vote.
One of the religious leaders affected was Kylan Mann of Central Baptist Church in Martin, Tennessee. Mann says he's been in ministry for 18 years, and he says these truly are dark times. He said he cannot condone same-sex marriage, although he welcomes anyone to his church. “God's word is true. We want to hold to God's word, and so we do not want to be forced to otherwise,” Mann said.
Holt says this protects all religious leaders, including Christians and Muslims. “This is an opportunity for them to say that they have the right to refuse participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies,” Holt added.
But local attorney Beau Pemberton says this is just repeating law that's already in place. The First Amendment of the United States and Article One of the Tennessee Constitution allow for religious freedom. This would prevent forced marriage ceremonies, according to Pemberton.
Holt also mentioned that he plans to work on a merchant and civil-service protection bill in the future.
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